MSPs unite to call for the elimination of hepatitis C in Scotland

MSPs from the Scottish Parliament’s three largest parties used the opportunity afforded by a debate on hepatitis C in Scotland to unite in calling for the Scottish Government to commit to the elimination of hepatitis C, and to express their support for the estimated 37,000 people affected by the virus in Scotland.

With the revised Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework due to be published this summer, the increasing availability of new and highly effective treatments, and the staging of the World Hepatitis Alliance summit in Glasgow in September, 2015 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in the fight against hepatitis C in Scotland. The MSPs involved in the debate noted this, urging the Scottish Government to continue with its world-leading work.

Opening the debate, Kevin Stewart MSP said that “In order to maintain our international reputation, the revised Sexual Health and Blood-Borne Virus Framework, which will be published this summer, must be as ambitious as possible, ensure access to new treatments, and explicitly commit to the elimination of the virus as a serious public health concern.” He went on to say that “Hepatitis C is preventable, treatable and curable. Let us ensure that we do all that we can to eradicate the virus from Scotland and export our good practice globally. I hope that we will soon see a hepatitis C-free world.”

Nanette Milne, MSP for North East Scotland and Conservative Public Health spokesperson, added her backing to the call for eliminating hepatitis C, issuing a plea to the Scottish Government to “consider committing to a strategy for the elimination of hepatitis C that aims to reduce to zero the incidence of new cases, to raise public awareness of the virus…to diagnose everyone who lives with hepatitis C and to ensure that everyone who is diagnosed as being infected has prompt access to the treatments that are most appropriate for them.”

 Other notable contributions came from Anne McTaggart, MSP for Glasgow, who called on the Scottish Government to seek negotiations with pharmaceutical companies regarding the cost of newtreatments and who said that “hepatitis C can be eliminated from Scotland provided that there is a Scottish Government commitment to doing so”, and from Johann Lamont, MSP for Glasgow Pollok, who highlighted the upcoming publication of the Penrose Inquiry.

Maureen Watt MSP, Minister for Public Health, said during the debate that “we want now to be using the language of elimination and eradication when we talk about hepatitis C in Scotland. A few years ago, that would have been an impossibility, but it is now a realistic ambition, and I am happy to drive it forward.”

Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust said:

“The debate highlighted the cross-party support which exists in the Scottish Parliament for eliminating hepatitis C as a serious public health concern within a generation. We applaud the work that has been carried out over the past decade by successive Scottish Governments to increase the number of people tested, diagnosed and treated for hepatitis C, and hope that Scotland will continue with its internationally-acclaimed approach to addressing the virus in the years ahead. If any country in the world can eliminate hepatitis C, it is Scotland.”

Petra Wright, The Hepatitis C Trust’s Scottish Officer, said:

“It was fantastic to hear the stories of people with hepatitis C being highlighted in the debate, and incredibly encouraging to hear MSPs from all parties showing their support for people with the virus in Scotland. I would like to thank all of those who people contacted their MSPs encouraging them to attend the debate. 2015 promises to be a hugely important year for hepatitis C in Scotland; this debate is only the start.”