A bipartisan coalition today introduced the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Prevention and Control Act of 2009, to address a national Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C epidemic impacting America. The bill incorporates the monitoring, testing and research and education provisions contained in the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C bills from the 110th Congress. Congressmen Charlie Dent (R-PA), Michael Honda (D-CA), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), William Cassidy (R-LA), David Wu (D-OR) and Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA) introduced the legislation.

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control Act of 2009 brings together the common concerns of the diverse viral hepatitis community to create a surveillance system to track chronic Hepatitis B and C infections; support activities to promote early detection and education, particularly in vulnerable populations, and incorporate them into existing clinical programs at the state, federal, and tribal level; and conduct research on improved treatments and vaccines; and meet other needs of the Hepatitis community as identified by advocacy groups.

“Hepatitis B and C are treatable diseases when detected early and properly managed,” Congressman Dent said. “Without detection and intervention, this silent disease develops into chronic viral hepatitis which is costly at best and deadly at worst. This bill makes a wise investment by focusing federal efforts to heighten awareness, promote prevention, enhance coordination, and increase research. I am proud to join this effort which demonstrates Congress's commitment to the elimination of chronic viral hepatitis.”

About Chronic Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are highly contagious blood borne viruses that cause liver disease, liver cancer, and premature death. Chronic hepatitis B is treatable when detected early and properly managed. In about 50% of the cases, chronic hepatitis C can be cured.

It is estimated that 2,000,000,000 people worldwide have been infected with the hepatitis B virus, 400 million chronically. Approximately 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus. An estimated 5.3 million people living in the United States are infected with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C; tragically more than half are unaware of their status.

About the Bill

The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control Act would amend the Public Health Service Act to establish, promote, and support a comprehensive prevention, research, and medical management referral program for chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The bill, with a price tag of 90 million in 2011 will increase the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance efforts. The CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis has been underfunded in comparison with other CDC programs within the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. The following numbers show the dramatic difference in funding levels.

HIV: $297 million to state and local health departments for prevention programs; $55.6 million to state and local health departments for surveillance; $692 million total (FY09)

STD: $115 million to state and local health departments for Comprehensive STD Prevention Systems; $152.3 million total (FY09)

TB: $85 million to state and local health departments for Prevention and Control; $7.6 million to state and local health departments for Laboratories; $143.8 million total (FY09)

Hepatitis: $5 million to state and local health departments; $18.3 million total (FY09)