Dr. Fuad Hasan
Professor at the Department of Medicine, Kuwait University
“THE EXISTING MEDICATIONS ARE NOT ONLY FOR SAVING THE LIVER FROM DAMAGE AND PREVENTING CANCER, BUT ALSO IMPROVING THE PATIENT’S QUALITY OF LIFE”
As part of the 2nd International Hepatology Summit held in Dubai last month, “HOSPITALS” magazine met with Dr. Fuad Hasan, Professor at the Department of Medicine, Kuwait University. The meeting tackled the importance of the Summit and its objectives in addition to Gilead Sciences’ role in facilitating care and treatment for millions of people suffering from life-threatening diseases worldwide. Dr. Fuad Hasan stressed that the Summit serves as a forum for physicians in various specialties as well as healthcare providers such as pharmacists and public health workers, to share knowledge and experience. He pointed out that the existing liver medications are not only for saving the liver from damage and preventing cancer, but also improving the patient’s quality of life.
Hepatitis is a global burden for governments and stakeholders. How would you assess the situation today? What are the ways to limit the spread of the disease and raise the awareness of the risk of infection?
The Middle East is endemic to viral hepatitis B and C. The incidence of hepatitis B dropped drastically especially among young people due to the introduction of the vaccination program in the early 90’s. Namely, in GCC countries all newborns are vaccinated against hepatitis B. This policy complies with the WHO recommendations. Therefore, most hepatitis B infections are now observed in patients born before 1992. These patients can be treated with oral medications that are very effective in controlling the disease and preventing its complications.
They are quite safe and effective. Unfortunately, they rarely result in complete cure and patients need to stay on treatment indefinitely. In contrast, hepatitis C has no vaccine, but it can now be cured in over 90% of cases using safe and well-tolerated tablets for 8 to 12 weeks. Treating people infected with hepatitis C will definitely limit the spread of the virus to healthy individuals. Certain populations need special attention because they are a reservoir for infection. For example, persons who inject drugs and prisoners should be treated to prevent the spread of the disease. Moreover, even apparently healthy individuals should be screened for hepatitis because many are not aware that they carry the virus. It is important to emphasize that anyone who received blood products before 1992 should be tested.
Also, those who used intravenous drugs or undergo dialysis, as well as spouses and children of infected patients should be screened. Finally, patients and healthcare providers should be educated about the disease, its prevention, and treatment since even physicians who are not specialized in liver disease may not be fully aware of the recent developments in this field.
In your opinion, what is the importance of this Summit in the dissemination of awareness and exchange of experiences in order to reach a mechanism to reduce the spread of hepatitis disease?
This Summit serves as a forum for physicians in different specialties as well as other healthcare providers, such as pharmacists and public health workers, to exchange knowledge and expertise and come up with a comprehensive 360-degree plan to educate, screen and treat infected patients. The news that comes out such meeting will help educate the public and governmental agencies in order to direct resources to the effort of eradication.
Tell us about the seriousness of this disease? How does it start and what are the most prominent symptoms?
Hepatitis B and C can cause liver cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. They can also cause diseases in other organs such as the kidneys, skin, diabetes, etc. Both viruses may be completely silent in the early stages, hence the importance of being tested. Many patients experience fatigue and depression. In advanced cases, patients may develop jaundice, fluid retention, bleeding, confusion or coma.
Is there a new treatment for hepatitis B and C?
Yes. Hepatitis B can be treated with pills and injections. These medications prevent the virus from damaging the liver. In case of hepatitis C treatment can cure the virus easily and without side effects. This is considered to be a revolution in medicine because no other chronic viral infection is curable at this time.
What are the new methods to improve the lives of patients?
This is a very important question. Current medications not only save the liver from damage and prevent cancer but also improve the quality of life. Both viruses can cause fatigue, depression, loss of appetite and absenteeism from work. When treated, patients feel much better and they become more energetic and productive.