BMS Foundation Helps Lower Viral Hepatitis Burden in China

More Than Medicine

Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Reaches New Heights to Help Lower Viral Hepatitis Burden in China

April 28, 2017

Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Reaches New Heights to Help Lower Viral Hepatitis Burden in China

Families celebrate the Torch Festival in Liangshan Yi Autononmous Prefecture. In China alone, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation has invested more than $9 million, and its partners have been active in 28 provinces and cities, reaching more than 8 million people.

The Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in southern Sichuan Province is a vast area of mountainous terrain where poverty is as common as the cliffs.  Many villages in Liangshan Yi are perched among those cliffs, with some places reachable only via climbs up vines of trees and steep ladders made of ropes.

In early March, representatives from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control (CFHPC) made their way to Liangshan Yi to launch, along with local officials, the Liangshan Yi HIV/HCV co-infection Prevention and Management Program. Through seminars, training and field visits, the program will help bring more effective HIV/HCV co-infection prevention and control to the region.  Reaching a destination as remote as Liangshan Yi is the latest milestone in a journey undertaken by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation in a country where as many as 10 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus and millions more are at risk for contracting it.       

The path to a new era in viral hepatitis treatment in China began more than 15 years ago for Bristol-Myers Squibb. During this span, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Delivering Hope™ initiative has supported projects in China and India that provide intervention in hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus infection and provide resources for better disease management. In China alone, the foundation has invested more than $9 million, and its partners have been active in 28 provinces and cities, reaching more than 8 million people at high risk of hepatitis infection with information on how to minimize their risk of contracting the diseases and the importance of treatment.

 

Because the stigma associated with a blood-borne disease like HCV infection can be significant, some people with HCV in China have difficulty finding work and are often ostracized within their own families. 

CFHPC, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s longest standing partner in China, is now leading a three-year initiative to establish a Hepatitis Center of Excellence in coordination with four other Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation partners – Wu Jieping Medical Foundation, Shanghai Charity Foundation, Inno Community Development Organisation and Shanghai Xintu Center for Community Health Promotion. Each organization is leveraging its own expertise and resources to train health care providers, provide patient support and conduct intervention programs for high-risk populations in places like Liangshan Yi, as well as thousands of oil field workers in Karamay, migrant workers in Guangzhou and individuals at risk in Beijing.  In Shanghai, the Hepatitis Center of Excellence has created a support program to aid hundreds of people with chronic hepatitis.

Because the stigma associated with a blood-borne disease like HCV infection can be significant, some people with HCV in China have difficulty finding work and are often ostracized within their own families. To bridge this gap, the Hepatitis Center of Excellence also is supporting the development of online resources, including the Peking University Education Foundation’s Virtual Community for Hepatitis C Management. The University is building a platform that will allow doctors to monitor patients’ treatment, communicate with patients, and access the latest research and scientific developments in the field and view case studies. To date, more than 20,000 patients, 221 general practice physicians, 398 liver specialists and 77 hospitals have registered.

 

Hepatitis C virus infection is a global pandemic, disproportionately affecting countries in Africa and East Asia.

Hepatitis C virus infection is a global pandemic, disproportionately affecting countries in Africa and East Asia. In China, it is estimated that of the 10 million people infected with the virus, between 50 to 85 percent will develop chronic hepatitis. Of those, between 20 and 30 percent may progress to liver cirrhosis that can lead to liver cancer. 

Reaching those at risk isn’t easy. On a sunny day in March with wind providing a cold bite, a drive upward through fog and clouds finally broke into a sunny day in Liangshan Yi.  Training sessions, conducted by public-health officials who had come from all over China, made for a quick start to a multi-year effort that will include HCV training for local healthcare professionals, public awareness education, HCV screening among high risk groups and HCV treatment support.  Liangshan Yi now could be found on the map of places where the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is delivering hope.