A Key Partner in the Fight Against a “Silent Epidemic”
Bristol-Myers Squibb Joins Worldwide Efforts to Increase Awareness, Prevention and Treatment of Hepatitis on World Hepatitis Day 2012.
The numbers are staggering: Approximately 500 million people worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C. This represents 1 in 12 people, yet awareness remains inexplicably low. In some patients, hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver scarring (cirrhosis) and other complications, including liver cancer or liver failure. Approximately 1 million people with hepatitis B or hepatitis C die every year.1
These viruses are a “silent epidemic,” often showing no symptoms while damaging the liver. Complicating matters are a lack of awareness and social stigma, which can prevent people from getting proper health screenings and seeking medical treatment. That’s why this year on World Hepatitis Day (July 28), Bristol-Myers Squibb is proud to be a key partner with the World Health Alliance (WHA) and other public and private organizations to help raise awareness about the disease and its threat to global health.
While vaccination is available as the primary mode of prevention against hepatitis B, it is only effective on individuals who have no prior exposure to the virus. For those chronically infected, there is no cure. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but it is a potentially curable disease. A blood test can diagnose both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
“Collaboration is in our DNA,” says Doug Manion, senior vice president, Development, Neuroscience, Virology and Japan, Bristol-Myers Squibb. “Beyond our continued commitment to studying medicines to treat liver disease, we have a strong history of forging alliances in the scientific, advocacy and policy arenas to help address unmet medical needs.”
This year, the company will launch multiple initiatives on World Hepatitis Day, including:
- Supporting the first ever public endorsement of World Hepatitis Day by the Asia Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver (APASL) at a press event in Singapore, together with the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific (CEVHAP).
- Collaborating with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the WHA and industry in a series of public awareness initiatives, including participating in local events to support WHA’s attempt at a Guinness World Record for the most people performing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” actions in 24 hours at multiple venues around the world.
- Organizing the second annual World Hepatitis Day China Forum to engage government officials, key physicians, patient groups and members of the media in a discussion about the virus’s impact in the country.
- Launching a call center in Korea for patients to learn the facts about hepatitis and find out where they can go for health screenings, vaccinations and other medical help.
- Holding a series of screening clinics and media events in Thailand, in conjunction with the Liver Foundation of Thailand.
- Joining with CEVHAP and ACT-HBV for a press event in Taiwan where the groups will announce the launch of an ongoing hepatitis monitoring program.
- Translating into multiple languages the company’s highly regarded PATH-B program, which offers a comprehensive online patient guide and toolkit for people who have hepatitis B. The toolkit is now available in Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey and the U.K.
In addition to our company-supported programs, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is marking World Hepatitis Day with four new grants to support awareness, prevention and treatment programs in China and India through the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Delivering Hope initiative.
In fact, since 2002 the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Delivering Hope program has given 42 grants to a variety of programs in Asia to support communities most at risk for hepatitis B and hepatitis C. To date, more than 9 million people living in rural villages and poor urban areas in China, India, Japan and Taiwan have benefitted from Delivering Hope initiatives.
“We have been working with partners in Asia, helping mobilize communities to improve prevention, diagnosis and care,” says John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “Over the past decade, our focus has evolved from building infrastructure and educating lay health care workers to empowering patients to advocate for improved education, support and services. This evolution is an important signal that, together with our partners in the non-profit and government sectors, we are making important progress in helping to address the needs of people living in communities that are disproportionately impacted by hepatitis B and C.”
The impact of the programs supported by Delivering Hope, particularly in China, was recognized this year by CMO Asia with an “Asia’s Best CSR Practices Award” in the Concern for Health category. The award was presented at a special ceremony in Singapore on July 20.
1 WHO Executive Board (2009) Viral hepatitis. Report by the Secretariat. EB126/15, 12 November 2009: http://apps.who.int/gb/ebwha/pdf_files/EB126/B126_15-en.pdf