Press Releases

2017 Press Releases

July 24, 2017: Survey Shows More Than Three-quarters of Canadians At Risk Don’t Know Hepatitis C May Not Trigger Symptoms

#Thisisyourwarning: Ahead of World Hepatitis Day, Canadian Liver Foundation encourages Canadians born between 1945 and 1975 to take an online hepatitis risk assessment questionnaire and get tested

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Monday, July 24, 2017 - In advance of World Hepatitis Day, the Canadian Liver Foundation is urging Canadians at risk to get tested for hepatitis C, a contagious blood-borne virus that attacks the liver and can be deadly despite often having no visible health warnings. A new survey found that 83 per cent of Canadians born between 1945-1975 don’t know that hepatitis C typically doesn’t present any symptoms -- despite the fact that this group are at higher risk of having chronic hepatitis C.1 Today, the CLF is launching its #thisisyourwarning campaign to alert Canadians of this potentially life-threatening and silent liver disease and to encourage them to assess their risk using its confidential, online Hepatitis Risk Assessment questionnaire.

“It’s common for people to visit the doctor when they’re not feeling well, but sadly those infected with hepatitis C often don’t experience any symptoms or visible warning signs, especially in the early stages of the virus,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and Toronto-based hepatologist. “In many cases, patients are able to be cured of this deadly virus especially if detected early on, and so we’re urging people born between 1945 and 1975 to get tested instead of waiting until they feel sick.”

Approximately 60 per cent to 70 per cent of Canadians with hepatitis C do not experience symptoms until their liver has already been damaged.2 This is alarming as it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed and are at risk of experiencing the most severe consequences including cirrhosis, liver cancer and even premature death.3

Lynn Fenton of South Surrey, British Columbia had a blood transfusion in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until 2011 when her doctors were investigating the cause of elevated iron levels in her blood that testing revealed hepatitis C.

“Until I was diagnosed with hepatitis C, the virus wasn’t even on my radar because I didn’t think I could have it especially considering my healthy lifestyle,” says Fenton. “People don’t realize how common hepatitis C is among the Boomer generation because there are no visible symptoms and it goes unnoticed, like it did in my case. Something as profound as a blood transfusion or as innocent as getting a manicure in the late eighties and early nineties could have exposed you to hepatitis C. Take my story as your warning.” 

Risk-based testing alone has not been effective and patients continue to be diagnosed by ‘accident’.4 Since 2009, the hepatitis C antibody test has only been recommended for individuals with recognized risk factors including any injection drug use, blood transfusions, or use of blood products prior to 1990 or participation in medical procedures or immunization in countries where hepatitis C is common.5 In 2012, the Canadian Liver Foundation issued its own recommendation which has widespread support from liver experts and advocacy groups that all adults born between 1945 and 1975 be tested for hepatitis C.

Urgent need for increased public awareness of hepatitis C testing due to recent misinformation

In April, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (CTFPHC) released new screening guidelines advising doctors not to test adults without any perceived risk factors. CTFPHC claims that screening has the “potential for false positives” and may cause “mental distress” if the diagnosis was positive. On the contrary, the Canadian Liver Foundation’s recent survey showed only one per cent of Canadians born between 1945-1975 would avoid getting tested because they fear the results.

The survey also revealed that 19 per cent of adults born between 1945 and 1975 wouldn’t get tested for hepatitis C because they don’t believe they did anything to contract the virus. However, a study revealed that many within this age group may have been exposed to the virus from contaminated medical equipment such as glass and metal syringes reused during childhood vaccinations  both in North America as well as in other countries.6

Hepatitis C is curable but individuals must first know that they have the disease. Due to the range of activities and scenarios in which an individual could have contracted hepatitis C, the Canadian Liver Foundation will continue to warn Canadians born between 1945-1975 to take a one-time hepatitis C antibody test. This simple blood test, which is covered by all provincial health care plans, is available from family doctors and could save lives.

To learn more about hepatitis C, and to take the online Hepatitis Risk questionnaire, visit  www.liver.ca/thisisyourwarning.

[1] Maru/Matchbox: Conducted an online survey between July 7-10, 2017 with a sample of 1,000 Canadians born between 1945 and 1975, margin of error of +/- 3.1%

Government of Canada. Symptoms of hepatitis C, 2016. Online at: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/hepatitis-c/symptoms-hepatitis-c.html

Trubnikov M et al. Public Health Agency of Canada. Estimated prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus infection in Canada, 2011. Online at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/14vol40/dr-rm40-19/surveillance-b-eng.php#t1-ft

Canadian Liver Foundation. Hepatitis C. Online at: http://www.liver.ca/how-you-help/advocate/

5 Canadian Liver Foundation. Hepatitis C. Online at: http://www.liver.ca/how-you-help/advocate/

6 British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. Online at: http://www.cfenet.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/centredocs/plain_text_summary_hcv_study_.pdf


April 24, 2017: New hepatitis C screening guidelines will lead to avoidable deaths and soaring costs to health care system

Reliance on risk-based testing will perpetuate low diagnosis rates and increases in cirrhosis and liver cancer 

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Toronto, April 24, 2017: They may not look sick. They may not feel sick. And yet many Canadians in the prime of their lives are living with a potentially fatal liver disease -- hepatitis C. An estimated 44 percent of Canadians with hepatitis C have no idea that they have it. Unfortunately, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care’s  (CTFPHC) new screening guidelines released today recommend against screening of adults without identifiable risk factors which may result in the bulk of the age group most at risk of having chronic hepatitis C (those born between 1945 and 1975) remaining undiagnosed.

“Liver cancer rates are rising in Canada due in large part to late diagnosis and lack of treatment of hepatitis C,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairperson of the Canadian Liver Foundation and a practicing hepatologist. “While we congratulate CTFPHC’s commitment to hepatitis C testing, the truth is that risk-based testing, which was first recommended in 2009  has only been effective in identifying a small proportion of adults with recognized risk factors. If you or your doctor don’t think you have any risk factors then according to these guidelines you won’t be tested.  We are disappointed that, despite widespread support among medical experts and advocacy groups, the CTFPHC failed to establish new  guidelines which would encourage widespread screening not just based on risk factors but also by age.” 

In August 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its recommendation that all adults born between 1945 and 1965 should have a one-time hepatitis C test. Based on the prevalence data in Canada and taking into account immigration from countries where hepatitis C is endemic, the Canadian Liver Foundation believed the age bracket should be expanded and issued its own recommendations that same year that adults born between 1945 and 1975 be tested. In 2013, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) began reviewing its screening guidelines for hepatitis C, but no new guidelines were issued. Subsequently, PHAC tasked the CTFPHC with reviewing evidence and coming up with recommendations. 

The new CTFPHC guidelines call for screening of adults with known risk factors including blood transfusions prior to 1992, past or present injection drug use, and coming from certain countries where hepatitis C is endemic. The  guidelines strongly recommend against screening for those without recognized risk factors meaning that if a person is not aware of a situation in which they may have been exposed to hepatitis C (i.e. from contaminated medical equipment, a common source of transmission in other countries) then they will not qualify for testing.

“The CTFPHC expressed concern over the costs of testing such a large group, the potential for false positives and the mental distress that a diagnosis might cause,” says Dr. Sherman. “But don’t we have an obligation to inform people if they have a potentially fatal but curable disease?”

Data suggests that age-based screening of adults born between 1945 and 1975 could capture as much as 77 percent of the population living with undiagnosed hepatitis C.1  Age-based screening is also cost-effective based on a reduction in deaths due to hepatitis C,  increases in quality of life years and savings in acute care costs for those with advanced disease.2  While the cost of treatment has previously been an obstacle, recent negotiations by the Pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) have successfully reduced the cost of several of the leading hepatitis C drug therapies. 

“The CTFPHC guidelines wrongly assume that the majority of those with hepatitis C would only have early stage disease,” says Dr. Sherman, “when in fact most have been living with it for decades. They do not adequately acknowledge the tragic personal costs and the health system costs of these individuals being diagnosed only when they have progressed to cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure. They over-estimate the potential harms of screening and fail to recognize the potential harms of not screening – the missed opportunities to save lives and to save downstream costs  to the health care system for liver transplants and acute care for those suffering from advanced hepatitis C.” 

In 2016, the federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott publicly committed to the World Health Organization’s goal of eliminating hepatitis C by 2030. Canada’s dismal diagnosis rates are due in part to risk-based screening which has been in place for years. The CTFPHC’s  long-awaited screening guidelines maintain the status quo which will leave tens of thousands still undiagnosed. We therefore call upon Minister Philpott to ask CTFPHC to reconsider their guidelines or justify how the continued reliance on risk-based screening only will achieve her commitment to eliminate hepatitis C. 

For more information, contact
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353 ext. 4923
mkearns@liver.ca

References:
1 A Canadian screening program for hepatitis C: Is now the time? http://www.cmaj.ca/content/185/15/1325 
2  Cost-effectiveness of screening for hepatitis C in Canada http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2015/01/12/cmaj.140711 


March 1, 2017: Liver disease may be invisible but it’s more prevalent than most people think

A six-week-old baby is diagnosed with liver cancer, a 52-year-old finds out she has an autoimmune liver disease she’s never heard of and an eight-year-old boy receives the news that he has two different liver diseases. They are just three of the 1 in 4  -- or an estimated eight million Canadians -- who may be affected by liver disease.  

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March 2017:  A six-week-old baby is diagnosed with liver cancer, a 52-year-old finds out she has an autoimmune liver disease she’s never heard of and an eight-year-old boy receives the news that he has two different liver diseases. They are just three of the 1 in 4  -- or an estimated eight million Canadians -- who may be affected by liver disease.   

“When you bring up the topic of liver disease, it doesn’t take long for someone to say how it has personally affected them or someone they know,” says Gary Fagan, Canadian Liver Foundation president. “Ten years ago we said that 1 in 10 Canadians were at risk but when you factor in the rise of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease along with prevalence rates for hepatitis B and C, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune liver diseases, children’s liver diseases,  liver cancer and more, we are now looking at 1 in 4. The numbers show liver disease is relevant to everyone.”

And yet liver disease is not a disease that people recognize – its symptoms can be vague, or even non-existent --  and so it often goes undetected by individuals and health care providers. 

March is Liver Health Month and the Canadian Liver Foundation is using this opportunity to highlight how liver disease is often ‘invisible’ to the eye and to the mind. We encourage Canadians to test out their knowledge with ’10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Liver Disease’  and to examine their own risk factors with the ‘What’s Your Risk?’ Quiz. In addition, the public can view and share our 1 in 4  video and visit www.liver.ca/tooclose4comfort  to learn the facts about liver disease, the stories behind it and to join in the CLF’s awareness efforts by sharing their own stories of how liver disease has affected them using the hashtag #tooclose4comfort

 

2016 Press Releases

November 28, 2016: The Canadian Liver Foundation calls on patients with primary liver cancer (HCC) to share their experiences in new global survey

Results will provide doctors and cancer researchers with insights to improve liver cancer treatment now, and in the future

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The Canadian Liver Foundation has  joined a special partnership of similar organizations across North America, Asia and Europe to ask hundreds of men and women with primary liver cancer (HCC) to share their experiences by responding to the first-ever international survey of people living with HCC. 
 
The anonymous survey is available on-line and patients can access it on their personal computer at www.hcc-voices.com . Participating patients will receive a personal identification number and password to log on to the survey, which will assure data privacy at all times. The survey will be available on the web until March 31, 2017. Patients who respond to the survey will also receive a personal copy of this report, which will allow them compare their observations with those of the others who took part in the survey.

In addition to the Canadian Liver Foundation,  a number of other national liver cancer societies are asking patients to take part in the survey. These include: the American Liver Foundation, Blue Faery – The Adrienne Wilson Liver Cancer Association, the British Liver Trust, the European Liver Patients’ Association, the Taiwan Liver Cancer Association and a number of liver cancer treatment units in major medical centres around the world. The survey was developed for these organizations by the research company, Strategic Sight, which will analyze the results in collaboration with the Medical Technology Research Group of the London School of Economics.

The results of the survey will be made available early in 2017, in the form of a report from the London School of Economics and the participating liver cancer groups. The survey findings will be made available to liver research organizations, scientific journals and the media.  


加拿大肝臟基金會號召原發性肝癌(肝細胞癌)患者參與新一項全球調查


調查結果將為醫生和癌癥研究者提供深入瞭解,以提升目前及未來的肝癌療法


加拿大肝臟基金會加入了一項由北美、亞洲和歐洲的類似組織聯手推出的特殊合作,邀請原發性肝癌(肝細胞癌)患者參與首次全球範圍的肝癌調查,分享自己的經驗。  

該匿名調查於線上進行,患者可登陸調查專頁 www.hcc-voices.com ,選取自己的語言版本參與調查。在加拿大,有英文、法文與中文三個版本的調查。參與調查者將會收到個人標識碼及密碼,用於登錄調查,以確保資料隱私始終得到保障。線上調查有效時間截至 2017 年 3 月 31 日。參與調查者將收到一份調查報告,令他們將自己的觀察結果與其他參與者的情形進行比較。

除加拿大肝臟基金會外,還有數家國家性肝癌學術團體也在推動患者參與此次調查,包括美國肝臟基金會、藍仙子–艾德麗安威爾遜肝癌協會、英國肝臟信託基金會、歐洲肝病患者協會、臺灣肝癌醫學會及全球數家大型醫療中心的肝癌治療單位。本調查由研究公司「策略視野」設計,調查結果將由研究公司配合倫敦經濟學院醫療技術研究小組進行分析。

此項調查的結果將於2017年初,由倫敦經濟學院及參與調查的肝癌組織聯名發布報告。調查所獲的發現可供肝臟研究組織、學術期刊及媒體使用。  


November 9, 2016: New Research Project Explores Curing Liver Cancer at the Nano Level

CLF Teams Up with TG&WHF to Destroy Liver Cancer

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November 9, 2016: A $1.2 million research grant is helping scientists get one step closer to eliminating liver cancer. Made possible by Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) and an anonymous donor via the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation (TG&WHF), this research will explore how nanoparticles can support the body’s immune system kill liver cancer cells. 

Dr. Ian McGilvray, liver transplant and cancer surgeon and Senior Scientist at Toronto General Research Institute, University Health Network, is leading the initiative. Dr. McGilvray and a multidisciplinary team of investigators will explore how nanoparticles can target and destroy immune cells that help liver cancer evade detection and grow. 

“This research will bring us one step closer to conquering this deadly disease,” says Dr. McGilvray. “We are, quite literally, on a mission to cure liver cancer by harnessing the power of the immune system.” 

Liver cancer is one the fastest-growing cancers in Canada. Since 1970, liver cancer cases have tripled for men and doubled for women. It’s also one of the most deadly diseases; patients with advanced diagnosis survive less than a year. More than half of patients cannot be treated with current therapies.

According to the CLF, liver cancer is on the rise largely because of late diagnosis of viral hepatitis and increasing cases of fatty liver disease. This makes their research partnership with UHN all the more powerful: UHN is a global leader in all forms of liver disease. Its track record in scientific discovery has led to successful new therapies for many forms of liver disease – and has even helped to cure hepatitis C. 
  
“Liver cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “It’s often the end result of many different types of liver disease. Our updated statistics show that one in four Canadians may be affected by liver disease so we’re expecting liver cancer cases to continue to rise. We see liver cancer as a top research priority and thanks to the generosity of our donor and our partnership with TG&WHF; we’re able to award the largest research grant in the Foundation’s history.”  

The CLF’s research review process ensures that all grant submissions undergo rigorous and objective peer review which is conducted in partnership with the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver (CASL) and involves evaluations by liver experts from within Canada and around the world.  Each research proposal receives a rating based on its scientific merit and relevance to the goals of the CLF.  Ratings are reviewed by the CLF’s Medical Advisory Committee to determine the final grant recipients.

Dr. McGilvray’s nanotechnology research is made possible through a $600,000 grant from CLF and a matching philanthropic gift of $600,000 from an anonymous donor at Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation (TG&WHF). The research will take place over the next three years.

“We are so grateful to our anonymous donor for their generous gift in support of Dr. McGilvray’s research,” says Tennys Hanson, President and CEO of TG&WHF and Vice President and Chief Development Officer of UHN.  “Understanding how to target and eliminate cancer cells is a critical step to developing more effective treatments, and a cure. We are delighted to help Dr. McGilvray and UHN researchers accelerate their research through our partnership with CLF.” 

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About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today, we are bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raising funds for research and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease.

About Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation
Established in 1986, Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation raises funds for research, education and the enhancement of patient care at Toronto General and Western hospitals, University Health Network. Through its donors, TGWHF is helping to drive advancements in liver disease, cardiac, brain, arthritis, vision, diabetes, mental health, transplant, regenerative medicine and more – transforming patient outcomes here and around the world. tgwhf.ca 


July 21, 2016: Too Many Canadians Born Between 1945-1975 Unaware of Their Increased Risk of Undiagnosed Hepatitis C

Canadian Liver Foundation says levels of awareness and testing for the disease dangerously low among this group, and urges those at risk to get tested

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July 21, 2016: If you were at an increased risk of having a potentially devastating – but curable – disease, would you want to know? This may be the case for over 100,000 people in Canada who may be living with undiagnosed hepatitis C – a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver i.   The little-known reality is that the greatest number of Canadians with hepatitis C are those born between 1945 and 1975.i, ii However, a recent survey showed over 80 per cent of Canadians in this age bracket are unaware of their increased risk and only one quarter have been tested.iii  

“Unfortunately, the vast majority of people still have a very limited understanding of hepatitis C, and don’t realize that they could be at risk – particularly those born between 1945-75, who are up to five times more likely to have the disease,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation, and hepatologist based in Toronto. “Chronic hepatitis C can severely damage the liver and leads to increases in liver cancer rates and without diagnosis and intervention will continue to result in otherwise avoidable deaths.”

Increased personal risk for hepatitis C dependent on age and country of origin
It is believed that hepatitis C transmission spiked after World War II, through a possible combination of an increase in medical procedures, the use of glass and metal syringes, and contaminated blood products (prior to screening of the blood supply). iv

This was the case for Sharon Rider of Acton, Ontario, who was shocked to be diagnosed with hepatitis C nearly 23 years after she contracted the virus from a blood transfusion during surgery. Sharon only experienced her first symptoms many years after her initial diagnosis. 

“I know there are others like me out there who are not aware of their personal risk factors for hepatitis C,” Sharon says. “It’s frightening to think of those undiagnosed people, whose livers could be deteriorating, and who could be putting their loved ones at risk,” Sharon says. 

As part of this 1945-75 demographic, some multicultural populations are also at increased risk of undiagnosed hepatitis C, particularly if they came to Canada from countries where the illness is more common.v  Hepatitis C rates are higher in many countries in eastern Europe and Latin America, countries of the former Soviet Union, and certain countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia,vi which is why the Canadian Liver Foundation is calling on members of these high-risk cultural groups in Canada to also be tested.

Undiagnosed Canadians at risk of devastating – yet preventable – liver damage
There are approximately 250,000 Canadians who have hepatitis C,i and it is estimated that 44 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis C i in Canada don’t even know they have the virus.
Unfortunately, one of the challenges with hepatitis C is that symptoms often don't appear until the liver has already sustained severe damage.vii Not only is untreated hepatitis C responsible for causing an increase in liver cancer, but it is also the number one cause of liver transplants, underscoring the importance of screening, early detection and treatment.viii 

While the human costs of the disease are significant, the projected financial impact is also troubling. A report published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in May 2014 estimates that health care costs associated with the disease will increase 60 per cent by 2032, as untreated or undiagnosed patients age and their liver diseases progress.ix   

“Undiagnosed chronic hepatitis C can be dangerous and weighs heavily on patients and the health care system, but thanks to research, testing and new curative treatments, the life-threatening and costly consequences associated with it are largely preventable,” says Dr. Sherman. “It is critical that members of high-risk groups understand their increased likelihood of having hepatitis C, and get tested without delay so they can be connected with a physician to discuss treatment options if needed.”

Knowledge is power when it comes to preventing liver disease and its complications
Since hepatitis C can be difficult to identify, being aware of your personal risk factors is crucial, particularly for those Canadians born between 1945 and 1975.v The Canadian Liver Foundation urges all adults born in this age bracket to be tested for the virus. The hepatitis C antibody test is a simple blood test and covered by all provincial health care plans and available from your doctor.v With recent advancements in treatment, the vast majority of patients are able to achieve a cure relatively quickly with minimal side effects.vii 

“There is no doubt in my mind that hepatitis C testing saves lives,” says Sharon. “Because I was diagnosed, I had a chance to have my disease treated and cured and can now look forward to the future. I would wish the same for others.”

For more information about hepatitis C, and to access the Canadian Liver Foundation’s hepatitis risk questionnaire available in English, French and Chinese, visit www.liver.ca/couldyouhaveit. 

About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today, we are bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raising funds for research and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease.


Media Contact: 
Environics Communications 
Beth Daniher
Office: (416) 969-2664
bdaniher@environicspr.com

References:
i Trubnikov M et al. Public Health Agency of Canada. Estimated prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus infection in Canada, 2011. Available online at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/ccdr-rmtc/14vol40/dr-rm40-19/surveillance-b-eng.php 

ii Remis RS. Modelling the incidence and prevalence of hepatitis C infection and its sequelae in Canada, 2007. Ottawa (ON): Public Health Agency of Canada; 2007. Available online at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/sti-its-surv-epi/model/index-eng.php
iii Leger Marketing: Conducted online between June 13th to June 16th 2016 using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb, with a sample of 1,000 Canadians born between 1945 and 1975, margin of error of +/-3.1%, 19 times out of 20.
iv Joy JB, PhD, McCloskey RM, Nguyen T, Liang RH, Khudyakov Y, Olmstead A, Krajden M, Ward JW, Harrigan PR, Montaner JSG, Poon AFY (2016); The spread of hepatitis C virus genotype 1a in North America: a retrospective phylogenetic study. Published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. Abstract available at:  ttp://www.cfenet.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/centredocs/plain_text_summary_hcv_study_.pdf. 
v Canadian Liver Foundation. Hepatitis C Testing. Available online at: http://www.liver.ca/support-liver-foundation/advocate/clf-position-statements/hepatitis_C_testing.aspx
vi Averhoff Francisco M et al. Global Burden of Hepatitis C: Considerations for Healthcare Providers in the United States. Clinical Infections Diseases. Available online at: http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/55/suppl_1/S10.long 
 vii Canadian Liver Foundation. Hepatitis C. Available online at: http://www.liver.ca/liver-disease/types/viral_hepatitis/Hepatitis_C.aspx.
 viii Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Viral Hepatitis C and Liver Cancer. Available online at: https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/factsheets/viral-hep-liver-cancer.pdf 
 ix Myers Robert P et al. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Burden of Disease and Cost of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Injection in Canada. Available online at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjgh/2014/317623/abs/


March 7, 2016: Obesity linked to dramatic rise in liver disease

Alarming new statistics show that 1 in 4 Canadians may be affected by liver disease

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March 7, 2016:  The obesity crisis is taking its toll on the liver with potentially deadly consequences.  Research shows that 1 in 4 Canadians may be affected by liver disease due primarily to the rapidly rising prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease linked to obesity, lack of physical activity and poor eating habits. This progressive disease is predicted to overtake hepatitis C as the leading cause of liver transplants. 

 “Many people still believe that all liver disease is alcohol related,” says Dr. Eric Yoshida, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee. “With the prevalence of non-alcoholic liver disease however, the odds of anyone, including  adults and children, being affected by liver disease are in the same realm as health conditions like heart disease or diabetes that Canadians  are far more familiar with.”

A review of current liver disease data reveals that as much as 20 per cent of the Canadian population has fat build-up in their livers. ‘Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease’ or NAFLD is a term used for the condition that varies in severity from simple fat accumulation with no inflammation to its most advanced stage that involves inflammation and fibrosis. From this advanced stage, a person can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. 

“A diet full of sugar, high calorie and high fat foods can lead to excess fat being stored in the liver,” explains Dr. Yoshida. “This fat build-up might never impact the functioning of the liver but it is the first step toward what could be a life-threatening condition.” 

If left unchecked, NAFLD has the potential to develop into cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. 

“NAFLD is already having an impact on the demand for liver transplants but what few realize is that it is also affecting the supply,” explains Dr. Yoshida. “Too much fat in a donor liver can mean that that organ cannot be used for a transplant. This means it is making the organ shortage even worse and we are losing out on the opportunity to save more lives.”
 
The good news is that NAFLD can often be prevented, or even reversed if it is detected before permanent liver damage has occurred.

The Canadian Liver Foundation is alarmed by the dramatic change in liver disease statistics and wants to alert the public about their increasing level of risk.  “When you bring up the topic of liver disease, it doesn’t take long for someone to say how it has personally affected them or someone they know,” says Gary Fagan, Canadian Liver Foundation president. “Ten years ago we said that 1 in 10 Canadians were at risk but when you factor in the rise of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease along with prevalence rates for hepatitis B and C, alcoholic liver disease, autoimmune liver diseases, children’s liver diseases,  liver cancer and more, we are now looking at 1 in 4. The numbers show liver disease is relevant to everyone.  People can’t ignore it any longer.”

March is Liver Health Month and the Canadian Liver Foundation is using this opportunity to encourage Canadians to consider how close liver disease might be to them and those they love and to find out how to get involved in helping themselves and others.  The public can view the video and visit www.liver.ca/tooclose4comfort to learn the facts about liver disease, the stories behind it and to join in the CLF’s awareness efforts by posting photos on the CLF’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with the hashtag #tooclose4comfort to share their own stories of how liver disease has affected them.
 
About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today, we are bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raising funds for research and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease.


For more information, contact:
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353 x4923
mkearns@liver.ca


February 25, 2016: LCBO raises funds for Canadian Liver Foundation

Coinbox program will support research for children with liver disease

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February 25, 2016: Selene was born with a potentially deadly liver disease and, at only five months, she received part of her mother’s liver to save her life. On behalf of children like Selene, the Canadian Liver Foundation is partnering with the LCBO during Liver Health Month to help raise funds for research into children’s liver disease.

Starting February 28, the public can help support the Canadian Liver Foundation by making a donation at any of the more than 650 LCBO stores throughout Ontario. Donation boxes featuring a photo of Selene will be displayed at LCBO checkout counters until March 31, 2016.

Liver disease affects millions of Canadians, including children. Research has helped doctors better understand and diagnose liver diseases in children but unfortunately, there are still few effective treatments or cures.

“Research is our best hope for finding ways to prevent or treat all liver diseases that affect children to give them a fighting chance for a long life. We are grateful to the LCBO, its employees and especially its customers for their support of the Canadian Liver Foundation and children’s liver disease research,” says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation.

“As a socially responsible community-minded retailer, LCBO is pleased to partner with the Canadian Liver Foundation and support a variety of worthy causes through the Giving Back In Our Community fundraising program,” says LCBO President & CEO Bob Peter. “Through the generosity of LCBO customers and the support of our staff, we help improve the lives of countless Ontarians and make a difference in communities across Ontario.”

The Canadian Liver Foundation is one of 28 provincial and numerous local charities that will benefit from LCBO’s province-wide donation box program in 2016. In 2014, LCBO raised a total of more than $9.5 million for charities through special programs and initiatives, of which $8.8 million was raised through in-store fundraising. In addition, LCBO’s annual dividend transfer to the Ontario government, which totaled $1.805 billion in fiscal 2014-15 ending March 31, 2015, excluding taxes, supports a wide range of important government programs, services and priorities, including health care, education and other important public services.

The Canadian Liver Foundation thanks the public for its support when shopping at their local LCBO store from February 28 - March 31, 2016.

To learn more about liver disease, liver transplants or the work of the Foundation, visit www.liver.ca


MEDIA CONTACTS:
Melanie Kearns, Canadian Liver Foundation Tel: 416 491-3353; E-mail: mkearns@liver.ca
Stephanie Petroff, LCBO Senior Communications Consultant Tel: 416 864-6792; E-mail: stephanie.petroff@lcbo.com

 

2015 Press Releases

July 27, 2015: Canadian Liver Foundation congratulates Government of Canada for funding collaborative hepatitis C network

Hepatitis C  is a serious liver disease that has been lurking undiagnosed in many individuals for decades and is now exacting a deadly toll in the form of rising rates of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. 

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Toronto; July 27, 2015: Hepatitis C  is a serious liver disease that has been lurking undiagnosed in many individuals for decades and is now exacting a deadly toll in the form of rising rates of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. To address this health care crisis, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Institutes for Health Research  have a new $4.5 million partnership to fund a National Collaborative Hepatitis C Network which will help ensure breakthroughs in treatment and prevention make it from the lab to the people living with or at risk of contracting hepatitis C. 

“We can prevent Canadians from suffering and dying from hepatitis C by identifying and treating individuals before they develop life-threatening consequences and by putting measures in place for prevention,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairperson of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Age- and risk-based testing, access to care and finding ways to prevent transmission are all important if we want to eliminate hepatitis C in Canada. We applaud the Government of Canada for providing funding to allow the experts in this field to continue their collaborations that are leading to solutions that can help save lives.” 

The Canadian Liver Foundation strongly believes in this national collaborative research model and has been a proud partner of the National CIHR Research Training Program in Hepatitis C (NCRTP-HepC) for 12 years. This initiative first began as an innovative program to connect mentors and students from academic and clinical institutions from coast to coast in a multi-disciplinary approach to combating hepatitis C. With the Government’s support of this next generation research network, the CLF will continue its commitment to provide funding, secure additional  non-governmental research funds and offer support and input in the areas of knowledge translation, communications and advocacy.

 “Hepatitis C treatment has evolved dramatically in a relatively short time,” says Dr. Sherman, “but there are still significant hurdles in determining how to manage hepatitis C prevention, testing, treatment and care efficiently while ensuring the widest possible access. We look forward to working with Dr. Naglaa Shoukry and the National Collaborative Hepatitis C Network team in their research into these  challenges and in sharing their findings with patients, the medical community, the public and key decision-makers.” 

About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today, we are bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raising funds for research and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

For more information, contact
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353 x4923
mkearns@liver.ca 


October 16, 2015: Curing liver disease in a dish, then a patient

Research team using stem cells to replicate an infant’s liver disease to test treatments

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October 16, 2015: Infants born with a potentially deadly liver disease called biliary atresia have a new ally in their fight for life – their own stem cells. Dr. Binita Kamath and her research team at SickKids are using breakthrough technology to create replicas of the disease with patients’ own stem cells. This research may eventually lead to ways to cure biliary atresia without liver transplants. 

Biliary atresia affects the bile ducts and leads to severe liver damage. It is the leading cause of both liver transplants and  liver-related death in children. 

Jack Lalonde, born with biliary atresia in 2004, required a liver transplant in his first year of life and second one at age nine. 

“We had no idea what was going on,” says Nicole Lalonde, Jack’s mother. “He had jaundice that didn’t go away and after numerous tests, his doctors told us that his liver wasn’t working properly.  We didn’t find out he had biliary atresia until later. He was put on the transplant list at only six months old.”

If infants are diagnosed with biliary atresia within the first eight weeks of life, they can undergo a surgery called the Kasai to help re-establish bile flow and prevent further liver damage. Unfortunately, this procedure is effective in only 30-50 per cent of cases leaving a liver transplant as the only other option.

Taking a tiny skin sample from a patient, Dr. Kamath and her team are able to create customized stem cells which can in turn be coaxed into becoming virtually any kind of cell. By turning these stem cells into bile duct cells, Dr. Kamath can produce a patient-specific model of biliary atresia and other bile duct diseases in order to better understand how the disease works and to test possible treatments.
   
“For the first time, we can study the structure and function of bile ducts derived from patients’ own stem cells,” says Dr. Kamath, a pediatric liver specialist and an Associate Scientist in Developmental & Stem Cell Biology at SickKids. “This is a massive step forward in personalized medicine as the bile ducts carry any genetic changes that are unique to the patient. This will allow us to better understand bile duct diseases and ultimately develop targeted therapies.”

The Canadian Liver Foundation has provided a two-year research grant to Dr. Kamath and her team to support the study. 

“This year we’ve seen desperate families reaching out publicly to find living liver donors for their children because they had no other options,” says Gary Fagan, president of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Biliary atresia and many other liver diseases affecting children have no cure so we are thrilled at the possibilities that this research project holds for these families.” 

Jack and Dr. Kamath will both be special guests at the Canadian Liver Foundation’s LIVERight Gala: An Evening of Hope and Heroes being held October 29, 2015 at Bellvue Manor in Vaughan.  Proceeds from this fundraiser will help support children’s liver disease research and education programs. Event details and tickets are available at www.liver.ca/gtagala or by calling Ellen Drazner at (416) 491-3353 ext 4920.
 
About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today, we are bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raising funds for research and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease.

For more information, contact
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353 x4923
mkearns@liver.ca


March 24, 2015: CLF applauds provinces on providing access to interferon-free therapy for hepatitis C patients

Collaborative negotiations successful in removing financial barrier to care for many patients but testing required to identify those still undiagnosed

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Toronto, March 24, 2015: For thousands of Canadians with hepatitis C, the news that the majority of the provinces and territories have worked together to negotiate an agreement to provide access to one of the newest interferon-free drug therapies comes as a welcome relief. The Canadian Liver Foundation applauds this positive move that recognizes the urgent need to treat individuals who have been living with hepatitis C for years, even decades, and are now suffering from advanced liver disease. 

“Hepatitis C treatment has evolved dramatically and we have finally reached a point where we have drug therapies that are easy to take, have few, if any, side effects and are highly effective ,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Unfortunately, the cost put them out of reach of the very patients who needed them the most. Thanks to this collaborative effort, the financial barrier has been removed for many patients in regions across the country.” 

British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Yukon and Manitoba have announced that the drug will be added to their formularies with several provinces planning to make similar listing decisions in the coming days and weeks.

Hepatitis C is responsible for almost half of all liver transplants and is a major contributor to the steady rise of liver cancer in Canada. The Canadian Liver Foundation’s 2013 report – Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making -- revealed that liver-related deaths had risen by almost 30 per cent in a period of only eight years, due in part to hepatitis C. 

While the accessibility of treatment is a critical part of eliminating hepatitis C, it is equally important to identify the thousands of Canadians who are still unaware that they are living with this disease.

“Hepatitis C is common in Canada and up to 70% may still be undiagnosed.  No one ever thinks that they could have hepatitis C and more often than not, neither do their doctors,” says Dr. Sherman.  “Currently Canada uses risk-based testing which hasn’t been effective in identifying all infected adults.  In fact, as few as 30% have been diagnosed but middle-aged adults account for about 75% of all infected individuals in Canada.  These people are at greatest risk of dying from the complications of this disease because the complications become more frequent with age. We need to introduce widespread screening not just based on risk factors but by age. The earlier patients are identified, the better the chances are that they can be effectively treated.” 

In August 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a recommendation that all adults born between 1945 and 1965 should have a one-time hepatitis C test. Based on the prevalence data in Canada and taking into account immigration from countries where hepatitis C is common, the Canadian Liver Foundation believed the age bracket should be expanded and issued its own recommendations in 2012 that all adults born between 1945 and 1975 should be screened. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) did its own feasibility studies, convened a working group of experts and created draft age-based recommendations. Revised screening recommendations have not yet been issued publicly.  

Studies have shown that age-based hepatitis C testing not only could identify up to 70% of those infected 1 but also would be cost-effective 2  whereas continuing to rely on risk-based screening will lead to a dramatic rise in liver cancer (205%) and liver-related deaths (160%) by 2035 3

“We can now talk to patients about ‘when’ they are cured, versus ‘if’,” says Dr. Sherman. “If we do not seek out and inform patients that they have this disease however, we may be sentencing them to unnecessary suffering and death. This week’s news is an exciting step forward in our efforts to eliminate hepatitis C and it is our hope that it will be a catalyst for PHAC and the provincial governments to take the follow-up step and implement age-based testing.”

About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today we are the largest charitable funder of liver-related research and we are committed to bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease.      


References:
1 A Canadian screening program for hepatitis C: Is now the time? CMAJ October 15, 2013 vol. 185 no. 15

Cost-effectiveness of screening for hepatitis C in Canada CMAJ January 12, 2015
 
3 Burden of disease and cost of chronic hepatitis C infection in Canada. Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 May;28(5):243-50.

Media contact:
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353 x4923
mkearns@liver.ca


March 3, 2015: Coins for Cures: LCBO stores raise funds for Canadian Liver Foundation

"She was born with brown eyes, her mother's smile, and liver disease. Maybe it's not the disease you think it is."

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March 3, 2015: Faith was only 10 weeks old when she was diagnosed with liver disease. To save her daughter’s life, Faith’s mother donated part of her liver and now Faith is a happy, thriving grade one student. Sadly, not all stories have such happy endings, which is why the Canadian Liver Foundation is partnering with the LCBO during March to help raise funds for research into children’s liver disease.

Starting March 1, the public can help support the Canadian Liver Foundation by making a donation at any of the more than 645 LCBO stores throughout Ontario. Donation boxes featuring a photo of Faith will be displayed at LCBO checkout counters until March 31.

“Many people are shocked to learn that children can get liver disease,” says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation.  “Research has helped doctors better understand and diagnose liver diseases in children but unfortunately, they still do not know what causes certain types and often these children will need liver transplants because there are no effective treatments or cures.”

Faith was born with biliary atresia, a condition in which the bile ducts do not form properly leading to a build up of bile that damages the liver. Doctors do not yet know what causes biliary atresia. 

 “Research is our best hope for finding ways to prevent or treat all liver diseases that affect children in order to give them a fighting chance for a long life. We are grateful to the LCBO, its employees and especially its customers for their support of the Canadian Liver Foundation and children’s liver diseases research,” says Fagan.

“LCBO is pleased to partner with the Canadian Liver Foundation and support a variety of worthy causes through the Giving Back In Our Community fundraising program,” says LCBO President & CEO Bob Peter. “The generosity of LCBO customers and staff enable these charitable organizations to make a significant impact in helping individuals and communities across Ontario.”

The Canadian Liver Foundation is one of 28 provincial and numerous local charities that will benefit from LCBO’s province-wide donation box program in 2015. In 2013, LCBO raised a total of more than $8.2 million for charities through special programs and initiatives, of which $7.7 million was raised through in-store fundraising. In addition, LCBO’s annual dividend transfer to the Ontario government, which totaled $1.74 billion in fiscal 2013-14, excluding taxes, supports a wide range of important government programs, services and priorities, including health care and education.

The Canadian Liver Foundation thanks the public for its support when shopping at their local LCBO store from March 1 – 31, 2015.

To learn more about liver disease, liver transplants or the work of the Foundation, visit www.liver.ca


March 3, 2015: Maybe it's not the disease you think it is

Canadian Liver Foundation seeks to counter stereotypes with five surprising risk factors for liver disease 

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March 3, 2015: The shock of a liver disease diagnosis is often accompanied by confusion. With alcohol being the most recognized risk factor for liver disease, many Canadians mistakenly assume that they have nothing to worry about if they are moderate to non-drinkers. To kick off Liver Health Month, the Canadian Liver Foundation is sharing five lesser known risk factors that will help show there is more to liver disease than the stereotype suggests.

“Liver disease is underdiagnosed in Canada and it is due in part to the perception that alcohol consumption is the only risk factor,” says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is actually the most common liver disease in Canada and there are many other forms of liver disease linked to genetics or even our immune system that most people have never heard of until they are personally affected by them. Some risk factors can be addressed but some cannot which is why it’s important to have liver tests so problems can be identified as early as possible.”

Some surprising liver disease facts:

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of five liver diseases responsible for 95% of liver-related deaths in Canada 
  • Biliary atresia (a disease with an unknown cause resulting in bile duct abnormalities in infants) is the leading cause of liver failure in children
  • Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure 
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis (a bile duct disease) affects 1 in 500 middle-aged women.


 The following are five surprising risk factors for liver disease:

1. Obesity

Over the years, our poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles have led to a dramatic increase in obesity. Unfortunately, obesity often leads to fat build-up in the liver which in turns causes inflammation – otherwise known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD. This condition can progress to a more severe stage in which there is an ongoing damage to the liver with scarring – known as cirrhosis.  When cirrhosis develops, the liver will slowly stop functioning.
 
2. Genetics
The genes we inherit from our parents dictate physical characteristics like hair and eye colour but they also determine our susceptibility to certain forms of liver disease. Several forms of liver disease – including Wilson disease which leads to a toxic build up of copper, and hemochromatosis which causes the body to store up excess iron– are the result of inherited gene abnormalities. TyrosinemiaAlagille syndrome and galactosemia are examples of inherited liver diseases that can be life-threatening for infants and very young children.
 
3. Immune system
The immune system’s job is to protect the body but sometimes it takes its work a little too seriously. There are certain liver diseases that are the result of the immune system attacking the liver. Auto-immune hepatitisprimary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC)  and primary biliary cirrhosis  (PBC) are all linked to the immune system. Researchers do not yet know what causes the immune system to turn on the liver or why some people are more susceptible to these diseases than others. It is believed that the trigger could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Recent CLF funded research has shown that PBC could actually be caused by a virus.
 
4. Medication
In our busy lives, few of us have time to be sick and thankfully there are numerous medications that can treat everything from a common cold to chronic  physical and mental conditions. Unfortunately, as the organ tasked with processing all medications, the liver can be vulnerable to injury due to toxic combinations of medications and inadvertent overdoses. 

5. The unknown
While some forms of liver disease have identifiable causes and risk factors, many others do not. Liver diseases can affect anyone at any age and we don’t necessarily know why. The good news is that the most common liver diseases can be prevented, treated or even cured. With more research, we may one day be able to do the same for the others.     

During Liver Health Month, the Canadian Liver Foundation will be sharing personal stories and liver disease facts via its website and social media to encourage the public to take a second look at liver disease and consider that ‘Maybe it’s not the disease you think it is’. The Foundation will also be launching its new brand which highlights the importance of liver health and the CLF’s commitment to ‘bringing liver research to life”. Visit www.liver.ca/march to find out more and help spread the word.


About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Today we are the largest charitable funder of liver-related research and we are committed to bringing liver research to life by promoting liver health, improving public awareness and understanding of liver disease and providing support to individuals affected by liver disease. To learn more or to make a donation, visit www.liver.ca     


For more information, contact
Melanie Kearns 
416-491-3353 ext. 4923
mkearns@liver.ca

 

2014 Press Releases

November 18, 2014: Uniting the world in the fight against viral hepatitis

Canadian Liver Foundation first organization in the world to endorse a declaration calling for global strategies to eliminate viral hepatitis B and C

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Toronto, November 18, 2014: More than 400 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C worldwide and 1.3 million die from these diseases every year. With the progress made in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B and C, a large number of these illnesses and consequent deaths are preventable with a united global effort. In November 2014, international experts in viral hepatitis gathered in Toronto, Canada for the 1st International Meeting on Hepatitis Cure & Eradication and at its conclusion issued the Toronto Declaration calling for the implementation of strategies to eliminate hepatitis B and C including specific targets in disease tracking, prevention, diagnosis and disease management to be achieved by 2018. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation is pleased to be the first organization in Canada and the world to endorse this declaration on behalf of all Canadians living with or at risk for hepatitis B and C. In 2012, the CLF published the first report on liver disease in Canada which identified an almost 30 per cent increase in liver-related deaths due in large part to viral hepatitis. The report called for many of the same strategies included in this declaration. The Foundation is proud to join with global experts and organizations from around the world in a united effort to eliminate these two deadly liver diseases.

We urge all Canadians and our partners around the world to join the Canadian Liver Foundation in this urgent call to action to eliminate hepatitis B and C globally.

To view a copy of the Toronto Declaration, click here.
To join the CLF in supporting the declaration, click here.
To view a copy of the CLF’s Report on Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making, click here


November 17, 2014: New Canadian Liver Foundation survey reveals Canadians unaware of hepatitis C risk

Those in high risk groups have little knowledge of the deadly virus 

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An estimated 250,000 Canadians live with hepatitis C, a deadly virus that attacks the liver and can lead to liver cancer, liver failure or even death. A new survey conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) found that among adults born between 1945 and 1975, only 29 per cent believe their own age group has the most people living with hepatitis C. Yet, adults born between 1945 and 1975 have the highest risk of having undiagnosed hepatitis C. The survey also found more than 75 per cent of the respondents have not been tested for the deadly disease or don’t know if they have. 

“One in five people with the virus don’t know they are living with hepatitis C because symptoms often don’t appear until it’s too late and the liver is damaged,” said Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairperson for the Canadian Liver Foundation and hepatologist at Toronto General Hospital. “We want to encourage all those who are at risk to get tested and urge those who have been tested to speak to their doctor about treatment.” 

Adults  born between 1945 and 1975 (including those born in Canada or abroad) are a high risk group because they may have undergone blood transfusions before testing of blood was introduced, experienced medical procedures or immunization before modern infection control measures became the norm (especially outside of Canada)  or experimented with intravenous drug use (even once). The disease is spread through blood to blood contact with an infected person or through unsterilized equipment, such as tattoo or piercing needles, that have been contaminated with infected blood. 

52 year old Sharon Rider contracted hepatitis C at age 16 when she received a transfusion during back surgery to correct her scoliosis. She was finally diagnosed 23 years later when she underwent a battery of blood tests prior to a second back surgery. 

“When I found out I was terrified that I might have passed it on to my husband or children,” said Sharon. “No one had ever suggested that I should get tested for hepatitis C and I didn’t have any symptoms that would have suggested that this virus was attacking and damaging my liver.”

The national survey of more than 1,000 Canadians found that although the 1945 to 1975 age bracket do not realize they are at such a high risk, the majority of respondents (86 per cent) have heard of hepatitis C and 77 per cent know that the liver is the most affected organ. In addition, 60 per cent understand that you can have the virus and not know it. However, only 11 per cent believe the disease has the highest rates of premature death among a list of diseases. Left untreated, hepatitis C progresses to cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure and can result in death.

In 2012, the Canadian Liver Foundation recommended that adults born between 1945 and 1975 undergo a one-time test for hepatitis C. This recommendation was supported by a Canadian Medical Association Journal article in which authors suggested that wide-spread testing of this age group could identify as many as 77% of those who are infected. 

Among the survey respondents, the most motivating reason to get tested is a recommendation from a doctor (70 per cent), followed by realizing you have a risk factor (44 per cent).

“Family physicians and other front line health care professionals have a vital role to play in educating their patients about risk factors and encouraging hepatitis C testing,” said Dr. Sherman. “Without diagnosis and timely treatment, individuals who are living unknowingly with hepatitis C will continue to progress toward more severe liver damage and risk suffering the most severe consequences of this disease.” 

Numbers by region: 

  • Almost 40 per cent of survey respondents in Atlantic and Quebec do not know that getting a tattoo can put them at risk of contracting hepatitis C. 
  • Only 61 per cent of those in Quebec believe that hepatitis C can lead to the most life-threatening consequences including  cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver transplant and death.
  • Only 10 per cent of respondents in Ontario and Quebec believe that hepatitis C causes the highest rate of premature death from a list of other infectious diseases.
  • 72 per cent of Ontario respondents and 76 per cent of BC respondents  have not been tested or do not know if they have been tested for hepatitis C. . 


CLF will participate in a legislative education day on November 20th at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The education day will aim to inform politicians on the toll hepatitis C is taking on Canadians. 

To determine your risk of contracting hepatitis C and to learn more about hepatitis C testing, please visit liver.ca/hepcinfo

About the Canadian Liver Foundation 

Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease


July 22, 2014: 'Deal with It' documentary exposes Canada's hidden hepatitis C epidemic

Baby Boomers largest group at risk but most don’t know it

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50-year-old Canadian Forces Sergeant Lance Gibson was trained to defend himself against countless dangers – except the one that almost took his life. Despite feeling in top physical shape, the Afghanistan war veteran discovered he had hepatitis C – a disease he had been living with for 28 years – and was facing imminent liver failure unless he received a liver transplant. His story is not unique. 

Gibson is one of the many Canadians profiled in the new documentary Deal with It: Untold Stories of Hepatitis C in Canada, which uncovers the country’s hepatitis C epidemic. This month the documentary’s producers, Bang Albino Films, and the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) will be showcasing the newly released film [https://vimeo.com/ondemand/dealwithit] online to raise  awareness of the disease in the lead-up to World Hepatitis Day (July 28). Starting today and running through to August 5th, Bang Albino will donate a portion of all  on-demand sales for Deal with it to support the Canadian Liver Foundation’s research on hepatitis C and liver disease.

Currently, 300,000 to 500,000 Canadians are estimated to have hepatitis C, a deadly virus that attacks the liver and can lead to liver cancer, transplantation or death. Approximately 70-80% of the hepatitis C cases in Canada affect baby boomers, but many of them are unaware they have the virus.

“The difficulty with hepatitis C is that there are no symptoms until it’s too late,” says Dr. Hemant Shah, Clinical Director, Francis Family Liver Clinic, University Health Network in Toronto. “It’s like you’re walking towards a cliff. You’re looking towards the horizon, but you don’t appreciate that the ground is about to give way and you feel perfectly fine as you walk towards that cliff.”

Shah and other liver experts interviewed for the film warn that hepatitis C – the cause of more deaths and years of life lost than any other infectious disease in Canada, including HIV/AIDS – has the potential to devastate the nation’s healthcare system, unless government health agencies at all levels proactively identify individuals with the disease now. 

Indeed, healthcare costs for treating hepatitis C are projected to rise by 60% over the next two decades.

Ironically, thanks to the emergence of new drug therapies, hepatitis C is now one of the few chronic diseases that can be cured in most instances – if it’s caught and treated soon enough. 

“A simple blood test will do it and if you are detected early on, there is the capacity to eradicate it, cure it, treat it without having a liver transplant,” says comedian Mike MacDonald  who was interviewed for the film and  who underwent a liver transplant in March 2013 due to hepatitis C.

For World Hepatitis Day, the Canadian Liver Foundation is urging people to watch Deal with it and to talk openly about all forms of hepatitis, including hepatitis C and B (both responsible for making liver cancer the fastest rising and deadliest cancer in the country and for increasing demand for liver transplants), so they can determine their own risk factors, get tested and, if necessary, get treated. 

“This documentary not only shows the real faces of hepatitis C but also drives home the point that it’s a disease that no one thought about until they were diagnosed,” says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “We hope the stories in Deal with it can prevent many unnecessary deaths by encouraging people in at-risk groups to get tested.”

About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease.   

About BangAlbino
Bang Albino Films is dedicated to creating short- and long-form documentaries on a variety health and social issues affecting Canadians. Web: dealwithitfilm.com Facebook: facebook.com/dealwithitfilmTwitter: @dealwithitfilm 


For more information, contact: 
Melanie Kearns 
416-491-3353 x4923 
mkearns@liver.ca  


May 27, 2014: New Analysis Reveals the Escalating Costs Associated with Untreated Chronic Hepatitis C

Experts say Canadian health care system not prepared for a 60 per cent increase in total health care costs in the next two decades

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May 27, 2014 – The Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) today announced the publication of a new analysis on the long-term impact of hepatitis C virus infection in Canada prepared by leading specialists that projects that Canada will experience a significant increase in cases of advanced hepatitis C-related liver disease over the next 20 years.  Associated health care costs will also increase dramatically, mainly attributable to cirrhosis and its complications including liver cancer and liver transplantation.  

According to Burden of Disease and Cost of Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Canada, published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (May 2014), by 2035, the population with chronic hepatitis C who have cirrhosis and more advanced hepatitis C-related disease will rise to 23 per cent from 8.7 per cent in 2013.  Compared to 2013, Canada will experience an increase of 89 per cent in cases of compensated cirrhosis (scarring of the liver with no loss of function) and an increase of 80 per cent in cases of decompensated cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver with advanced symptoms and loss of function).  The analysis projects an increase of 205 per cent in cases of liver cancer and an increase of 160 per cent in cases of liver-related deaths.  The authors report that these increases are “substantially greater” than those previously projected by the Public Health Agency of Canada that underestimate the true burden of hepatitis C in Canada.

While the new report reveals that the prevalence of hepatitis C infection peaked in 2003, the longer-term associated health care costs will increase by 60 per cent to $258.4 million at the peak in 2032 from $161.4 million in 2013 as patients age and their liver disease progresses (Note: cost projections do not include antiviral therapy, virology testing and indirect medical costs).  The analysis determines that by 2032, 81 per cent of the total health care costs of hepatitis C will be attributable to more advanced liver disease, up from 56 per cent in 2013.  In addition, the authors estimate that the lifetime cost for a hypothetical male 35 to 39 years of age with hepatitis C is $64,694, but varies substantially according to disease state – ranging from $51,946 for a patient with no fibrosis in 2013 up to $327,608 for a patient requiring liver transplantation in 2013. 

“The Canadian health care system is not prepared to confront the impending epidemic of advanced hepatitis C-related liver disease and associated health care costs,” said Dr. Robert Myers, Director of the Viral Hepatitis Clinic at the University of Calgary and lead author of the article.  “There is an urgent need to initiate strategies to enhance the identification of new and existing cases of hepatitis C and to optimize the utilization of new antiviral therapies that treat multiple hepatitis C genotypes and have the highest cure rates with minimal side effects.”

The article states that at current levels of diagnosis and treatment in Canada, patients will face a significant risk of death due to complications of hepatitis C in the coming years.  In fact, the authors estimate that more than 32,000 hepatitis C-infected individuals will die of liver-related causes between 2013 and 2035, and that premature death will be substantial with patients only living to an average age of 68 years compared with an average life expectancy in Canada of 81 years.

“We are already seeing increases in liver cancer rates that are linked to hepatitis C infection, and without a concerted effort to identify and treat patients we will be facing dire consequences to both individuals and health care systems,” said Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman, Canadian Liver Foundation, and a co-author of the article.  “Today, we are seeing significantly more patients with compensated cirrhosis than decompensated cirrhosis, but the annual costs of dealing with decompensated cirrhosis are four times greater.  So with decompensated cirrhosis estimated to increase by 80 per cent by 2035, this emphasizes the need for early diagnosis and treatment.”

“With estimates that approximately 75 per cent of hepatitis C patients will have early-stage disease at any given point in time, this represents a window of opportunity to intervene before their health starts to rapidly deteriorate,” said Dr. Mel Krajden, Medical Head, Hepatitis and Associate Medical Director, BCCDC Public Health Microbiology and Reference Laboratory, BC Centre for Disease Control, and a co-author of the article.  “Given that short-course, well-tolerated treatments are already available and will soon be able to cure greater than 95 per cent of infections, we must find solutions to make treatment accessible for those who need it.”

Another strategy outlined in the article, and recommended by the CLF, is to ensure Canadians born between 1945 and 1975 are screened for hepatitis C.  The CLF has been urging the federal government to work with the provinces to develop strategies to eliminate hepatitis C.

“Hepatitis C is curable in most patients.  We have an opportunity to act now to be proactive and treat more patients prior to them progressing to more advanced stages of disease when treatment becomes less effective and less well tolerated,” said Dr. Myers.  “With these new projections around the future burden and costs of hepatitis C, it is time to shift our thinking from the short-term pain associated with the costs of screening and antiviral therapy, to the long-term gain attributable to preventing hepatitis C-related complications.”

About the Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

For more information, contact 
Melanie Kearns 
416-491-3353 ext. 4923 
mkearns@liver.ca 


March 4, 2014: The face of liver disease could be your own

Canadian Liver Foundation launches 'Face It' Campaign to encourage Canadians to learn about liver disease and own risk factors

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March 4, 2014: Most Canadians are oblivious to their own risks of developing liver disease. Unfortunately, this ‘who me?’ attitude is leading to a rise in complications and deaths due to advanced liver disease. To help change attitudes, the Canadian Liver Foundation is using Liver Health Month to urge Canadians to recognize that liver disease may have many faces – even their own or someone they love. 

“If you were to ask people on the street if they thought they needed to worry about liver disease, the answer would typically be ‘no’,” says Gary Fagan, president of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “This is alarming because liver disease is a much bigger issue in this country than anyone realizes. Unfortunately people don’t understand their own risk factors and few have ever been tested.” 

The Canadian Liver Foundation is launching a campaign called ‘Face it’ to promote the facts about liver disease and show Canadians that the ‘face’ of liver disease might be more familiar than they think. The ‘Face It’ campaign will use social media to promote liver disease facts under the hashtag #faceliverdisease and will encourage people to visit www.liver.ca/facefacts  to learn how to protect themselves and their families. 

Currently fatty liver diseasehepatitis Bhepatitis Cliver cancer and alcoholic liver disease are the most common forms of liver disease in Canada. According to the CLF’s report, Liver Disease: A Crisis in the Making, deaths from liver disease have risen by almost 30% in a period of only eight years. 

“Liver disease is often overlooked and yet every week there are children, teens and adults who are diagnosed with genetic, autoimmune, viral, toxin or obesity-related liver disease,” says Mr. Fagan. “There are simple blood tests that can detect problems with the liver but we hear countless stories from people that were stunned to find out they had severe liver disease despite having few, if any, symptoms,” says Mr. Fagan. “We want people to face the facts about liver disease before it’s too late.” 

Throughout the month of March, several leading health and wellness experts -- Rose ReismanTheresa AlbertBryce WyldeStephanie Joanneand Tosca Reno -- will be lending their support to the campaign by helping to dispel the myths and offering liver health advice. 

“People are always flabbergasted to learn how many different things can impact your liver health – not the least of which being what you eat,” says Theresa Albert, nutritionist, author and member of the CLF’s National Board. “One of the best ways to get people thinking beyond the stereotype is asking them ‘have you ever’ or ’ do you ever’ questions about diet, medication, body art, sex, travel and so on. Once people see how the liver plays a vital role in day-to-day life, they’re a step closer to taking action to protect their liver health.” 

For more information on the Face It campaign and Liver Health Month activities,click here

 
For more information, contact 
Melanie Kearns 
416-491-3353 ext. 4923 
mkearns@liver.ca  


January 15, 2014: Is your liver too fat?

Fat build-up in this vital organ can lead to serious liver disease 

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January 15, 2014; Love handles, pot bellies, muffin tops – there are lots of creative ways that we describe the excess weight that we see in the mirror. So what do we call the fat that we can’t see? When it’s in the liver, it may be a first step toward liver disease. 

Fatty liver disease is now the most common form of liver disease in Canada and is poised to one day overtake hepatitis C as the leading cause of liver transplants. 

“Fatty liver disease is rarely mentioned when it comes to risks associated with obesity,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and a liver specialist in Toronto. “And yet, fat build-up in the liver can have very real consequences. Unfortunately, while more and more doctors are finding liver fat showing up on ultrasounds, they don’t necessarily know what to do about it.” 

Fatty liver disease is caused by the accumulation of fat in liver cells. The greater the percentage of fat in the liver, the greater the risk of developing liver inflammation, fibrosis or cirrhosis (moderate or severe scarring of the liver) or even liver cancer. In addition to obesity, fatty liver disease has also been linked to other risk factors, including insulin resistance, hyperlipidaemia, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes. 

Dr. Maitreyi Raman, a Calgary gastroenterologist, physician nutrition specialist and co-author of Healing Fatty Liver Disease: A Complete Health & Diet Guide, sees 10 patients a week with fatty liver disease. For many, the diagnosis comes as a result of tests for other obesity-related conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. 

“People do not understand how eating habits can affect the liver,” says Dr. Raman. “They are surprised to learn that a high calorie, sugar-laden diet can over time damage the liver in the same way as long-term excessive consumption of alcohol. In fact, under a microscope, you could not distinguish the liver of an alcoholic from the liver of someone with fatty liver disease who had never had a drink.” 

According to Stats Canada data, one in 4 Canadian adults is obese and almost a third of children 5-17 are overweight or obese. As obesity rates have risen, so has the prevalence of fatty liver disease. Waist size is one sign of excess abdominal fat which may translate into fat build-up in the liver. Waist circumference greater than 102cm (40in) for men and 88cm (35in) for women is cause for concern. 

“While fat in the liver may not always lead to severe disease, it is not something to be ignored,” says Dr. Sherman. “Fatty liver disease is preventable and in many cases even reversible if it is caught before cirrhosis develops. Since this is the time of year when a lot of people are making commitments about weight loss, it’s important to know that one of the payoffs can be a healthier liver. It’s definitely worth the effort.” 

To help protect against fatty liver disease, here are a few tips: 

  • Ask your doctor for a liver enzyme test which will ensure fatty liver disease or other liver problems are identified as early as possible.
  • If you are overweight, strive for gradual and sustained weight loss through proper nutrition and exercise. 
  • Reduce your sugar intake and eat a well-balanced diet that is low in saturated fats and high in fibre. Click here for some liver-healthy recipe ideas.
  • Introduce exercise into your routine, at least four times a week.
  • Avoid alcohol which can also lead to fat build-up in the liver.


For more statistics on fatty liver disease, download Fatty Liver Fast Facts

For more information on liver health or how to cope with fatty liver disease, click here, call  1-800-563-5483 or email clf@liver.ca 

About the Canadian Liver Foundation 
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 


For more information, contact 
Melanie Kearns 
416-491-3353 x4923 
mkearns@liver.ca 

 

2013 Press Releases

October 25, 2013: Canada falling behind in tackling hepatitis C

Hepatitis C symposium highlights need for national action plan 

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Toronto, ON (October 25, 2013) – Today, international researchers will present a compelling case for government action on hepatitis C. The disease can now effectively be screened, diagnosed, treated and often cured. Unfortunately, progress has hit a critical moment; in order to prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths and to avoid soaring acute care costs, Canada needs a national action plan to identify, treat and cure more patients with hepatitis C

“We have the knowledge, the diagnostic tests and an ever-improving crop of therapies that we can use to treat patients,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “However, our ability to help people is hampered by our lack of resources. We have to find innovative and affordable ways to bring advancements to patients; otherwise we will waste the efforts of researchers in Canada and around the world.” 

During Hepatitis C Virus: From Discovery to Cure, a symposium jointly presented by the Gairdner Foundation and the Canadian Liver Foundation, Dr. Harvey Alter and Dr. Daniel Bradley, both winners of the prestigious2013 Canada Gairdner International Award, will recount their ground-breaking work in isolating and identifying the hepatitis C virus. This research led to the development of the first screening tests for the virus. 

Leading Canadian and American specialists will join Dr. Alter and Dr. Bradley, highlighting the ongoing challenges in measuring the current and future burden of hepatitis C and in overcoming the social, financial and administrative barriers standing between patients and the care they need. 

“It’s incredible how far we’ve come and how much we’ve learned in the last 20 years,” says Dr. Gary Levy, former director of the Multi-Organ Transplant Program at the University Health Network in Toronto and one of the organizers of the symposium. “Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation in this country, but with advances in treatment it doesn’t have to be. Transplants are, and always should be, a last resort, but we are often left with no choice because patients already have advanced forms of the disease by the time they are diagnosed. We should be using what we know to identify patients and intervene long beforehand.” 

At Toronto General Hospital, which has the largest transplant program in the country, about 35 per cent of liver transplants performed each year are for patients living with hepatitis C. 

Sergeant Lance Gibson was diagnosed with hepatitis C in January 2009 and discovered he had been living with the virus for 28 years after receiving blood products as a teenager. While in the process of being released from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), his medical examination revealed that he had the disease. As a result, he had to turn down a lucrative civilian position and stay in the CAF for treatment. He received a liver transplant in May 2012. 

“While I’m grateful to the donor and the doctors who saved my life, I don’t think that liver transplants should be the answer,” says Lance. “If doctors were routinely testing for hepatitis C, mine might have been identified much earlier and I might have had more options for treatment.” 

Canada needs a national action plan for hepatitis C 

Earlier this year, the Canadian Liver Foundation’s report – Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making – highlighted the gaps in knowledge, care and resources for all forms of liver disease. For hepatitis C, the report called for widespread screening of adults born between 1945 and 1975. This recommendation was supported by Canadian specialists in a recently published Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) article1. The report also recommended changes to how hepatitis care is funded and managed as well as how patients qualify for treatment reimbursement. 

“We estimate that only two per cent of the more than 300,000 Canadians living with hepatitis C have undergone treatment,” says Dr. Sherman. “We recognize the financial implications of diagnosing and treating each Canadian with the disease, but if we don’t figure out a strategy now, we will end up spending even more in acute care costs or resorting to transplants to save the lives of patients that could have otherwise been cured.” 

About the Canadian Liver Foundation 
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the CLF was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

Media contact:
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353 x4923
mkearns@liver.ca 

Additional resources

B-roll is available for download here

Canadian Liver Foundation’s Report, Liver Disease: A Crisis in the Making can be accessed here

Canadian Liver Foundation’s Position Statement on Hepatitis C Testing can be accessed here

References: 
1 Canadian Medical Association Journal. A Canadian screening program for hepatitis C: Is now the time? H. Shah, J. Heathcote, J. Feld http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2013/09/30/cmaj.121872.extract  


September 3, 2013: Give for your liver

LCBO store to raise funds for Canadian Liver Foundation

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If your body was a car, your liver would be the engine.Your car can’t run without an engine and neither can your body – and replacements for this vital organ can be hard to come by. That’s why the Canadian Liver Foundation is partnering with the LCBO this fall to help raise funds for liver transplant research to benefit Ontarians of all ages living with liver disease that may one day need, or are already waiting for, transplants. 

Starting September 15, the public can support the Canadian Liver Foundation by making a donation at any of the 635 LCBO stores throughout Ontario. Donation boxes for the Canadian Liver Foundation will be displayed at LCBO checkout counters until October 12. 

“Many people still believe that all liver disease is connected to excessive use of alcohol but in fact there are over 100 forms of liver disease that strike people of all ages,” says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Liver transplants are often the only hope for liver disease patients and research can help us make sure that every transplant is successful.” 

In Ontario, about 200 liver transplants each year are performed on patients ranging in age from infants to adults. Through its chapters across the country, the Canadian Liver Foundation raises funds to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, fund liver research and provide support to those coping with liver disease. 

“Until we are able to prevent or cure all liver diseases, liver transplants will continue to be necessary to save lives,” says Mr. Fagan. “We are grateful to the LCBO, its employees and especially its customers for their support of the Canadian Liver Foundation and liver transplant research.” 

“As a good neighbour, LCBO is pleased to partner with the Canadian Liver Foundation and support this worthy cause,” says LCBO President & CEO Bob Peter. “Through the generosity of LCBO customers and staff, we help improve the lives of countless Ontarians and make a difference where we live and work.” 

The Canadian Liver Foundation is one of 28 provincial, as well as numerous local charities, that will benefit from LCBO’s province-wide donation box program in 2013. In 2012, LCBO raised a total of more than $6.6 million for charities through special programs and initiatives, of which $6.1 million was raised through in-store fundraising. In addition, LCBO’s annual dividend transfer to the Ontario government, which totaled $1.7 billion in fiscal 2012-13, excluding taxes, supports a wide range of important government programs, services and priorities, including health care and education. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation thanks the public for its support when shopping at their local LCBO store from September 15 to October 12. 

Click on the following links to learn more about liver diseaseliver transplants or the work of the Foundation.

Media contacts: 

Melanie Kearns, Canadian Liver Foundation, Tel: 416 491-3353; E-mail: mkearns@liver.ca 

Stephanie Petroff, LCBO Senior Communications Consultant, Tel: 416 864-6792; E-mail: stephanie.petroff@lcbo.com 


July 23, 2013: Unmask hepatitis B before it turns into liver cancer

Canadian Liver Foundation urges Ontarians with chronic hepatitis B to undergo testing every 6 months 

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When you eat right, exercise and generally feel healthy, it’s easy to forget that you’re living with a potentially deadly virus. Faced with an almost one in four chance of developing liver cancer or other complications of advanced liver disease however, Ontarians living with chronic hepatitis B cannot afford to be complacent. That is why the Canadian Liver Foundation is urging those with chronic hepatitis B to undergo viral load testing and liver cancer screening every six months. 

“When you don’t have any symptoms and believe that you’re making all the right lifestyle decisions, you can develop a false sense of security that your disease isn’t progressing” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and a liver cancer specialist at Toronto General Hospital. “Unfortunately, chronic hepatitis B is one of the most common causes of liver cancer so it’s important to stay vigilant. Regular screening can identify liver cancer at a very early stage when it is most treatable.” 

Earlier this year, the Canadian Liver Foundation released a report that showed that hepatitis B is one of the leading forms of liver disease and that the mortality rates for hepatitis B-related liver cancer are destined to rise by 50% by 2020. Recently released cancer statistics identified liver cancer as one of the fastest rising forms of cancer in Canada. 

Ontario has the highest population of people with chronic hepatitis B in all of Canada due in part to the flow of immigrants from countries where hepatitis B is very common. The Canadian Liver Foundation is launching a new awareness campaign that will focus on Ontarians that have already been diagnosed with hepatitis B but are not undergoing treatment or being regularly screened. The campaign will encourage them to talk to their doctors about monitoring and how to best manage their disease for the sake of their long-term health and for their families. 

The new awareness campaign will roll-out in doctors’ offices first, followed by a mass media launch with radio and print ads, billboards and social media just in time for World Hepatitis Day (July 28). 

Click on the following links for more information on hepatitis B and liver cancer,  or email hepbinfo@liver.ca. Download the the CLF’s Liver Disease in Canada Report .

Facts about chronic hepatitis B
 

  • Babies and young children are at the greatest risk of developing chronic hepatitis B if not vaccinated at birth.
  • Hepatitis B ranks 5th among all infectious diseases in Ontario for morbidity and mortality
  • An estimated 25% of males and 8-10% of females with untreated hepatitis B will die from complications of their disease (i.e. cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure)

About the Canadian Liver Foundation 

Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

To view the posters, click on the following links: EnglishChinese,  Vietnamese

For more information, contact: 

Melanie Kearns 416-491-3353 x4923 mkearns@liver.ca [English] 
Alina Lin 416-491-3353 x4924 ALin@liver.ca [Chinese]


May 29, 2013: Liver cancer rates a wake-up call that it’s time to address liver disease epidemic

Canadian Liver Foundation says prevention and early intervention in all forms of liver disease will reduce liver cancer and future demand for liver transplants

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Liver cancer is an alarm bell signaling the future of liver disease in Canada. Today’s newly released Canadian Cancer Statistics 2013 show that liver cancer is one of the fastest rising forms of cancer in Canada. Unfortunately liver cancer rates are on the rise as a direct result of contributing liver diseases like hepatitis B and C and fatty liver disease not being identified and treated early enough. 

“Hepatitis B and C and fatty liver disease do not cause liver cancer overnight,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and a hepatologist who specializes in liver cancer research. “It can take anywhere from two to 20 years which gives us more than enough time to intervene. But we have to be vigilant. If we included liver tests as part of regular doctor visits for instance, we would be able to catch the early warning signs and take action and not only reduce the risk of liver cancer but also the future demand for liver transplants.” 

The Canadian Liver Foundation’s Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making report released earlier this year highlighted a 30% increase in liver-related death rates and called for the development of a national liver disease strategy to improve screening, diagnosis, treatment and research into all forms of liver disease. Among the 21 recommendations included in the report were long-term and short-term measures to help reduce liver cancer. 

• universal neonatal immunization for hepatitis B; 
• liver tests included in regular doctor visits; 
• hepatitis C tests for all adults born between 1945 and 1975 and hepatitis B testing for immigrants; 
• access to affordable and effective treatment for all chronic hepatitis B and C patients; 
• regular liver cancer screening for at-risk patients. 

“Liver cancer can be the end result of many forms of liver disease,” says Dr. Sherman. “The key to reducing the incidence of liver cancer lies in early detection, intervention and prevention. We have the tools but what is lacking is the sense of urgency, supporting policies and available funding to implement them. These new statistics should be the wake-up call that it’s time to pay attention to liver disease in this country before it’s too late.” 

For more information on liver cancer, click here.  To download the CLF's Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making,click here.  

About the Canadian Liver Foundation 
Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

Media contact:
Melanie Kearns
Mobile: 416-527-2567
mkearns@liver.ca 


April 15, 2013: Justin Trudeau's support of Canadian Liver Foundation fundraiser

The Canadian Liver Foundation is grateful for Mr. Trudeau’s past support of our fundraising efforts. 

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April 15, 2013

The Canadian Liver Foundation is grateful for Mr. Trudeau’s past support of our fundraising efforts. Liver disease is a serious national health issue which does not receive enough attention. 

The footage used in the recent political ad was filmed at the Canadian Liver Foundation’s What a Girl Wants fundraiser held November 17, 2011 in Ottawa. Mr. Trudeau was willing to not only attend our event but also generously donate a lunch to be auctioned off to raise funds for liver disease research and education. This auction item raised $1,900 and the event raised $128,000. 

The Foundation believes Mr. Trudeau should be applauded for his commitment to an important health issue that affects an estimated 3.4 million Canadians. 


April 2, 2013: Landmark Study Reports a near 30 Per Cent Increase in Liver-Related Deaths in Canada in Eight Years

Canadian Liver Foundation sounds the alarm on looming public health crisis

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The Canadian Liver Foundation today released, Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making, the first comprehensive report on liver disease in Canada. Findings include close to a 30 per cent increase in deaths from liver disease in the eight years from 2000-2007, with Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia being hit hardest. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation, in partnership with physicians from across the country, is sounding the alarm on this public health crisis and recommending short and long-term solutions to help defuse this ticking time bomb. 

“Liver disease does not need to be a death sentence,” said Dr. Morris Sherman, Toronto General Hospital Hepatologist and lead author of the study. “Effective options for screening, diagnosis and treatment exist, but without government support and investment, Canadians will continue to die from preventable forms of liver disease. The burden of liver disease is about more than money. It’s time that we look at the human costs of ignoring this issue.” 

As the largest internal organ, the liver is tied into virtually every critical process of the body. Yet, despite its importance to good health, the liver has been largely ignored. Unlike other major diseases, liver disease has no national strategy for a public health response. With all the major forms of liver disease on the rise, experts are saying continued inaction will lead to a costly public health crisis with a serious toll on lives and resources. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation is urging federal and provincial/territorial governments and related health agencies to work together to develop a national liver disease strategy that incorporates the 21 recommendations outlined in the report. 

With an estimated one in 10 Canadians suffering from some form of liver disease and up to 25 per cent of Canadians affected by obesity-linked fatty liver disease, Dr. Sherman warns governments need to become more proactive about the issue. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation commissioned the report to show, for the first time, the true scope of liver disease in the country. Using information from various sources including government, academic and institutional databases and physicians, experts collected facts and figures and extrapolated data on the most prevalent forms of liver disease. 

Download a  full copy of Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making 

Download fact sheets with report highlights: 

Fact Sheet:: Liver Disease in Canada 
Fact Sheet: Liver Disease - under-diagnosed and under-treated 
Fact Sheet: Key Report Recommendations 


About the Canadian Liver Foundation
 
The Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

For more information contact: 
Brown & Cohen Communications & Public Affairs Inc. 416-484-1132 
Kaitlynn Dodge ext. 5 or kaitlynn@brown-cohen.com  
Wendy Kauffman ext. 3 or wendy@brown-cohen.com  


January 29, 2013: National Hepatitis C Survey Prompts Call for All Canadian Boomers to Get Tested

Information gaps may be compromising optimal diagnosis and treatment 

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Current realities of chronic hepatitis C in Canada and results of a new national survey of physicians and Canadians on awareness of the liver disease, have prompted the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) to urge general practitioners (GPs) to immediately begin recommending a one-time blood test for all adults born between 1945 and 1975. 

“We know that risk-based testing has not been effective in identifying all infected adults, and most physicians surveyed agree they do not screen enough patients for hepatitis C,” said Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the CLF and hepatologist at Toronto General Hospital. “Given that today’s treatments can cure a majority of those infected, it’s time to be proactive at identifying chronic hepatitis C in the age group with the highest prevalence. The hepatitis C antibody test is inexpensive and is covered by all provincial health care plans.” 

According to the survey, conducted by Ipsos Reid, 83 per cent of GPs agree that patients would benefit from more routine screening. GPs also admit to having a limited understanding of the disease and its treatment. Only 35 per cent feel they know a lot about symptoms and nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) feel they know nothing at all or not much about available treatments. More than half (57 per cent) are unaware that hepatitis C can be cured. 

Focus on Boomers 
While anyone can be exposed to hepatitis C, Canadian data show that chronic hepatitis C is most pervasive among those born between 1945 and 1975. Baby boomers are up to five times more likely to be infected by hepatitis C than other adults. Yet Canadian boomers are less likely than younger generations to have been tested, according to the survey. Additionally, boomers claim to be the most knowledgeable generation about hepatitis C, but scores from the survey show they know the least. 

“Hepatitis C is a silent disease, meaning often symptoms don’t appear for many years until the liver is severely damaged,” said Dr. Marc Bilodeau, hepatologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Université de Montréal. “The large number of people infected, the asymptomatic nature of the disease and the serious consequences associated with it justify broader testing. The good news is nearly all Canadians would accept being tested if suggested by their doctor.” 

The CLF extended the recommendation for testing beyond the boomer generation, taking into account immigration from countries where hepatitis C is more widespread and common. 

While nine in 10 Canadians believe that someone can have hepatitis C and not know it, this is not leading to testing. In fact, while over 300,000 Canadians are living with chronic hepatitis C and an estimated 71,000 Canadians are living with HIV, more are being tested for HIV/AIDS (32 per cent) than hepatitis C (23 per cent) according to the survey. 

Survey Design and Methodology 
The results of the survey, completed in September 2012, are based on 1,000 online interviews conducted nationally with adults over the age of 18 and 300 online interviews with GPs. The sample was generated by Ipsos Reid's Canadian Online Panel to reflect the Census data for Canadian adults and the national distribution of Canadian GPs. 

With the given sample size, the poll is accurate within +/- 3.5 percentage points for all Canadians and +/- 6.5 percentage points for all GPs, 19 times out of 20 had the entire adult population and all GPs been polled. 

The survey was conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of the Canadian Liver Foundation. The Canadian Liver Foundation acknowledges Merck Canada for its support of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C as a serious liver disease and promote liver health. 

About Hepatitis 
Hepatitis C is a serious and potentially fatal liver disease. More than 300,000 people in Canada are living with chronic hepatitis C but many are unaware of it. It can take decades after individuals are infected for symptoms to appear. Undiagnosed and untreated chronic hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure or the need for a liver transplant. 

People can contract hepatitis C through any blood-to-blood contact including injection drug use (even a single episode), blood transfusions prior to 1990, participation in medical procedures or immunization in countries where hepatitis C is common, sharing personal care items (razors/nail clippers), and tattoos and piercings with improperly sterilized equipment. 

The CLF is encouraging GPs to learn more about screening and testing for hepatitis C. Tools to help physicians screen, diagnose and treat hepatitis C are available here. For more information on the CLF's hepatitis C campaign, click here. To learn more about hepatitis C, click here

 

2012 Press Releases

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August 16, 2012: Medication can help or hurt - it all depends on the liver

Antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbal remedies are supposed to help us feel better but in some cases they may cause more harm than good – particularly when it comes to our livers. This week a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that a common antibiotic – levofloxacin – used to treat respiratory and sinus infections could lead to severe liver damage in older people. While Health Canada may issue warnings or demand labeling changes in these types of situations, the risks of liver damage from adverse reactions or interactions or over-medicating is more widespread than most people are aware.

"As a liver specialist, I see, or hear about, cases of medication-induced liver problems not infrequently," says Dr. Eric Yoshida, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee and Head of Gastroenterology at Vancouver General Hospital. "People may not appreciate that all medications – prescribed, over-the-counter or natural – have to be processed by the liver. One of its primary roles is to protect the body by ridding it of toxins but that also makes it the most vulnerable to damage by organic biochemical products– whether they are overtly harmful or seemingly beneficial."

Individuals who are self-medicating often take too much or mix different products that may have the same ingredient leading to an inadvertent overdose, such as in the case of acetaminophen. With prescribed medications, doctors have to be aware of everything a patient may be taking, prescribe appropriately and closely monitor a patient when they begin taking a new medication so they can quickly identify any problems before they result in liver damage. Any prescribed medication, herbal product etc can potentially cause liver damage in someone somewhere.

"The last thing you want as a sick person – or as a doctor – is for a medication to actually cause additional illness," says Dr. Yoshida. "If you already have some form of liver disease, there are many drugs that you and your doctor will have to think carefully about because there is the potential that your liver won’t be able to handle it."

While doctors need to do their due diligence when prescribing for their patients, individuals can help protect their liver health by understanding what medications they are taking and why and what possible reactions they should be on the look out for. The potential benefits of taking the drug or herbal product need to be balanced against possible risks of side effects including liver damage.

"When the liver is reacting to a medication, the symptoms can be similar to acute viral hepatitis," says Dr. Yoshida. "You might experience nausea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain or jaundice. If caught early, the situation may be resolved by stopping the medication. If it has progressed to liver failure however, it could result in death or require an emergency liver transplant."

The Canadian Liver Foundation offers the following tips to help protect the liver when taking medication:

  • To avoid potentially life-threatening complications, you should talk to your doctor about all medications or supplements - pharmaceutical and herbal - that you are taking or thinking of taking.
  • If your doctor prescribes a long-term medication, ask for a liver test before you start the medication and after the first few weeks of taking the drug to determine how your liver is tolerating it. Follow up with regular liver tests throughout the duration of your treatment.
  • Always read and follow the dosing instructions as dictated by your doctor or the medication label. Never take more than the recommended dose and be sure to take into consideration other medications that you may be taking at the same time that may have similar ingredients.
  • Never mix medication with alcohol. Alcohol increases the risk of possible liver damage. Acetaminophen can be especially toxic when combined with alcohol.
  • Be careful about mixing Tylenol® with other products that contain acetaminophen. By taking more than one pain reliever or cold remedy at a time, you may accidentally take more acetaminophen than is safe. Consult your doctor about acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
  • Avoid certain herbal supplements (i.e. comfrey, germander, ma huang - for a full list, click here) as well as certain vitamins in high doses as they have the potential to cause damage to the liver. For example, high doses of vitamins E, K - and especially vitamins A and D - may be harmful.
  • Avoid grapefruit, grapefruit juice or supplements with grapefruit bioflavonoids if you are taking medication. The chemicals in grapefruit (both rind and pulp) can interfere with the liver enzymes that break down drugs. A variety of different medications – including some anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs and tranquilizers -- have been shown to have potentially serious interactions with grapefruit products.
  • If you have a chronic liver disease or other liver condition, consult your doctor before taking any form of prescription or non-prescription medication or herbal remedy. Liver disease compromises the liver’s ability to perform its normal processing functions so you may be unable to take medications to treat other health conditions.

For more information on medication safety, click here or medication-induced liver disease, click here


July 16, 2012: Canadian Liver Foundation and Comedian Mike MacDonald Urge Canadians to Get Tested for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is no laughing matter. In advance of World Hepatitis Day (July 28), the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) and Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald are calling upon Canadians to learn more and get tested for hepatitis C, a potentially fatal liver disease. The organization has launched an awareness campaign which includes a national public service announcement (PSA) featuring the comedian. 

Fourteen months ago, Mike, 57, was diagnosed with hepatitis C. He does not know how he contracted the virus, but suspects it is possibly due to his past lifestyle and drug use. Mike is now in need of a liver transplant and has teamed up with CLF to raise awareness about the importance of testing for the hepatitis C infection. 

“I never thought this could happen to me, but all it takes is one moment to contract this virus,” said Mike. “I’ve been living with this infection for a long time and didn’t know it until I was diagnosed last year. I support the Canadian Liver Foundation’s campaign to raise awareness about hepatitis C and encourage Canadians to get tested. Don’t wait until it’s too late.” 

There is a stigma associated with the disease due to its connection to injection drug use. The fact is people can contract the virus though any blood-to-blood contact including, blood transfusions prior to 1990, sharing personal care items (razors/ nail clippers), tattoos, piercings and medical procedures with improperly sterilized equipment.

The Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver (CASL), with funding from the CLF, has come out with new treatment guidelines, which point to great advancements in the treatment of hepatitis C, including newer more effective treatments and a greater range of diagnostic testing.

“Testing for hepatitis C will allow for a diagnosis, leading to appropriate treatment, which is the best hope for a cure,” said Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman, CLF, Hepatologist and Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto. “Canadian data shows the highest prevalence of chronic hepatitis C is among those born between 1945 and 1975. Recently the US Centres for Disease Control has recommended that all baby boomers be tested. Since many people are not aware of their own risk factors, we agree that this is an age group that should consider getting tested. Nothing should be left to chance.”

An estimated 250,000 Canadians are currently infected with hepatitis C, and 3,200 to 5,000 individuals are newly infected each year.  The complications of untreated hepatitis C can be severe and may lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure which is likely to be fatal unless a transplant is performed.  

For more information on hepatitis C and hepatitis C testing, click here.  To view the new Mike MacDonald PSA, click here.


February 16, 2012: Lack of donor organs and poor access to treatment mean mortality rates for liver disease destined to rise

When you ignore a health issue, it only tends to get worse. Liver disease has been lurking in the dark gaining strength while individuals and governments devote their attention elsewhere. Reports from Statistics Canada and most recently the Canadian Institutes for Health Information (CIHI) however are revealing glimpses of what the future may hold for liver disease patients if action is not taken soon. With rising liver cancer rates and shortages of donor organs, that future looks bleak.

“The most common forms of liver disease – hepatitis B and Cliver cancer and fatty liver disease – are chronic conditions that move slowly and may have few symptoms,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Canadian Liver Foundation Chairman and practicing hepatologist. “In some cases these diseases may not be discovered until they reach an advanced stage when a transplant is the only option. What is more disturbing however is when diseases like hepatitis B or C are diagnosed at an early stage, patients cannot access the treatment they need to avoid the need for a transplant.” 

According to the CIHI report on organ transplantation released this week, hepatitis C remains the leading cause of liver transplants in Canada, followed by cholestatic liver disease. Liver cancer has taken over the number 3 spot from alcoholic cirrhosis – an indication that lack of diagnosis and intervention is allowing other forms of liver disease such as hepatitis B to progress to liver cancer.   

“When the country is facing a chronic shortage of donor organs, we should be looking at ways to reduce the numbers of people who need them,” says Dr. Sherman. “Livers are the second most frequently transplanted organ and in 2010 74 people died on the waiting list. This is almost as many as died waiting for kidneys despite the fact that there are six times as many people waiting for kidneys. Patients with failing livers do not have an option for dialysis.”

The Canadian Liver Foundation believes that improving organ donor rates is only part of the solution for liver disease patients. “We have the means to significantly reduce the demand for liver transplants,” says Dr. Sherman. “We have treatments for hepatitis B that can effectively control, and in some cases cure, hepatitis B before it turns into liver cancer but in many provinces, these treatments are not accessible to patients. In the case of hepatitis C, many people are still not diagnosed. For those that are, new treatment options are available but once again it comes down to accessibility. If governments do not cover the costs of these drugs, only patients with the financial means or independent coverage will be able to afford them.” 

The CIHI report is further evidence that now is the time to address liver disease in Canada. “There are an estimated 600,000 Canadians living with chronic hepatitis B or C. If there are not enough donor organs now, we should be doing everything we can to keep these people off the transplant list in the future. We hope that these statistics will motivate governments to implement policies regarding screening and treatment that will not only benefit patients but help reduce the demand for liver transplants.” 

Click here for more information on hepatitis or the Canadian Liver Foundation’s positions on liver-related issues


February 6, 2012: Cure for liver disease is $1 million closer

Canadian Liver Foundation announces new research funding for 2012

February 6, 2012; In a lab somewhere in Canada, the next breakthrough in the fight against liver disease is waiting to be found. The Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) will bring this breakthrough a step closer by investing $1 million dollars in liver research in 2012. With these funds, 17 researchers – both senior specialists and new investigators – will pursue studies in liver cancer, pediatric liver disease, tyrosinemia and other forms of liver disease.  

“In the past 20 years, we have made incredible progress in unlocking the complexities of the liver and the mechanisms of liver disease,” says Dr. Eric Yoshida, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee. “With hepatitis C for example, we have gone from identifying the virus to being able to cure a large percentage of patients. With enough resources, we can do this with other liver diseases too.”

Fatty liver disease linked to obesity is the now the most common form of liver disease in Canada followed by hepatitis B, hepatitis C, autoimmune and alcohol-related liver diseases. An estimated three million Canadians are living with some form of liver disease but may not even be aware of it as symptoms can often be vague or even non-existent until it reaches an advanced stage. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation is the largest non-profit funder of liver research in Canada and has invested more than $20 million in research since it was first founded. The Foundation offers funding in three grant categories: Operating grants for senior and new researchers, Graduate studentships for Ph.D. and Masters level researchers and Summer Studentships for undergraduate students. Throughout its history, the CLF has funded 483 researchers at various points in their careers. 

“Liver research is chronically underfunded because liver disease is not seen as a priority for governments or individuals,” says Dr. Yoshida. “We are grateful to the Foundation’s supporters – many of whom have been personally affected by liver disease – who give what they can to keep important research moving forward. The answers we find today will help save lives tomorrow.”

The CLF’s grant competition is now open with an application deadline of April 2, 2012.  To learn more about the CLF’s research programs, click here


January 19, 2012: Rising liver cancer rates show not enough being done to address contributing factors

Liver cancer is treatable and often preventable

January 19, 2012: Male baby boomers looking forward to retirement may have a nasty surprise waiting for them. According to the recently released Statistics Canada report on Canadian Trends in Cancer Prevalence, liver cancer rates among males aged 50 – 79 are significantly higher than in younger age groups or among women of the same age. What is alarming is that liver cancer rates are on the rise due to the fact that the major causes of primary liver cancer – hepatitis B and hepatitis C – are not being identified and treated early enough.  

“Hepatitis B and C do not turn into liver cancer overnight,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and hepatologist who specializes in liver cancer research. “It can take anywhere from two to 20 years which gives us more than enough time to intervene. If we included liver tests as part of annual physicals and did regular liver cancer screening for patients who have been diagnosed with hepatitis B or C, we would be able to catch the early warning signs and take action.” 

Where once it was a death sentence, liver cancer is now treatable through a variety of means. If caught early, surgery, treatment with radio waves and other methods can be used to successfully shrink, kill or remove cancerous tumours in the liver. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation believes that the key to reversing the trend in liver cancer rates lies in early detection and intervention as well as prevention. “Hepatitis B, for example, is the leading cause of liver cancer world-wide and there are an estimated 300,000 Canadians currently living with this disease,” says Dr. Sherman. “Hepatitis B is particularly prevalent within immigrant populations and they often have the most difficult time accessing affordable treatment options. As a practicing clinician, it is frustrating for me to see liver cancer rates rising when I know it is avoidable through prevention and treatment measures.”   

At a time when provinces are reviewing their health care priorities, the Canadian Liver Foundation is calling upon all provinces to institute the following measures to combat liver cancer:

  • universal neonatal immunization for hepatitis B;
  • liver tests included in annual physicals;
  • access to affordable and effective treatment for all chronic hepatitis B and C patients;
  • better identification of those patients with liver diseases, including hepatitis B and C who are at risks for liver cancer
  • regular liver cancer screening for those at-risk patients;

“The Statistics Canada report provides the data on a serious health issue that the Canadian Liver Foundation and the hepatology community have been aware of for some time,” says Dr. Sherman.  “Liver cancer rates are a barometer for the state of liver health in this country. Without decisive action, things will only get worse. We hope that these statistics will be a catalyst for provincial governments to address liver cancer and its contributing factors.” 

For more information on liver cancer, click here

For media inquiries, please contact Melanie Kearns at mkearns@liver.ca or 416-491-3353

 

2011 Press Releases

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March 7, 2011: Healthy short cuts for busy families; 2011 LIVERight Award Winners

Pre-packaged convenience foods recognized as nutritious and delicious in fourth annual LIVERight™ Awards  

March 7, 2011 – Busy families trying to find easy and nutritious meal solutions now have a little help. The Canadian Liver Foundation’s 2011 LIVERight™ Awards has recognized 10 packaged and prepared convenience food products as being both delicious and nutritious. 

First started in 2008, the LIVERight™ Awards has two primary goals. The first is to help raise awareness of fatty liver disease, currently the most common type of liver disease in people living in North America. The second is to identify some practical solutions for individuals and families looking for healthy options to fit into their time-crunched schedules.

“An estimated 1.4 million Canadians have fatty liver disease from poor nutrition and inactivity,” says Canadian Liver Foundation President Gary Fagan. “The LIVERight™ Awards initiative draws public attention to this important health issue and creates an opportunity for companies to be recognized for their effort to be part of the solution.” 

LIVERight™  Award submissions came from both well-recognized brands as well as smaller start-ups. Submissions were evaluated for their nutritional content and then in a blind taste test by nutrition and food experts.

“We understand that time pressures often make it challenging to maintain a healthy diet and there are many products on the market making a variety of health claims, says Billie Potkonjak, National Director of Health Promotion and Manager of the LIVERight™ Awards. “This year’s winners provide options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were pleased to see a number of new companies getting involved as well as some of the previous year’s winners returning to the competition with new products.”  

For a complete list of winners, click here

About the LIVERight™ Awards

The Canadian Liver Foundation’s LIVERight™ Awards competition addresses Canadians’ need for convenient food options that are both delicious and nutritious. 

This annual national award program was created to raise awareness of North America’s most common form of liver disease, fatty liver disease caused by poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyles. The disease is already estimated to be present in 18 to 24 per cent of the North American population, including children as young as two years of age.  
                    
A liver can develop deposits of fat as a result of poor nutrition or alcohol. The abnormal presence of fat in the liver can lead to serious consequences, such as inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), permanent scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and even cancer. 

2011 Award categories included: Best Kid-Friendly Item; Best Breakfast Item; Best Vegetarian Item; Best Ethnic Item; Best Snack; Best Lunchbox Item; Best Starter/Appetizer; Best Side Dish, Best Snack, Best Condiment and Best Family-Friendly Item.

Entries are judged on nutritional value, taste, visual appeal, aroma, texture, freshness and innovation. Winners may use the LIVERight™ Awards logo to leverage their product. For more details visit: www.liver.ca/liverightawards.

The 2011 judging panel included: Theresa Albert, D.H.N., R.N.C.P. (host of the popular Food Network series Just One Bite, owner of Thyme for Supper, and author of Ace Your Health and Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day), James Smith (award-winning professional chef and professor at George Brown College), Judy Scott Welden (Nutritionist/Home Economist, Television Food Pro) and Diana Mager, PhD, R.D. (Assistant Professor, Clinical Nutrition, University of Alberta). 

Canadian Liver Foundation

The LIVERight™ Awards are part of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s LIVERight™ initiative that aims to make liver health a priority for all Canadians. For 40 years, the Canadian Liver Foundation's mandate has been to reduce the incidence and impact of all liver diseases. Through the national office and chapters across Canada, the Foundation actively supports education and research into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of liver disease. 


For media inquiries contact:
Melanie Kearns
P: 416-491-3353  E: mkearns@liver.ca

 

2010 Press Releases

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Ontarians deserve better access to treatment for hepatitis B and C

ICES study calls for more prevention, more screening and more research but what about treatment?

Toronto, December 15, 2010: Hepatitis B and C are insidious diseases that have few symptoms until they reach an advanced and potentially fatal stage. The time it takes for these diseases to cause cirrhosis or liver cancer may be anywhere from two to 20 years -- more than enough time to intervene. Simple blood tests can identify the hepatitis B and C viruses and yet these tests are not a standard part of annual physicals.  Effective treatments also exist for both chronic hepatitis B and C but they are not always accessible to those who need them. With the recent Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) study ranking hepatitis B and C in the top five most burdensome infectious diseases, the Canadian Liver Foundation is calling upon the provincial government to establish standardized screening protocols and to make treatment more widely accessible for all Ontarians with hepatitis B and C. 

“The ICES study should be an eye-opener for everyone,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation and a hepatologist at Toronto General Hospital. “It shows that hepatitis B and C are major contributors to morbidity and mortality in Ontario. These diseases have not been a priority for our government despite the major toll they take on our population.  The tragedy is that the power to reduce this human cost is within the grasp of government but they have yet to recognize it.”

The study calls for greater screening and preventative measures like immunization (in the case of hepatitis B) to tackle the problem. It is estimated that as many as one third of Ontarians with viral hepatitis do not realize that they have it. If all physicians incorporated hepatitis testing into standard physicals, more patients would be identified and those that had not been exposed to hepatitis B could be immunized. These measures would increase the early identification and intervention but are only part of the solution. Once identified, patients need to have access to affordable treatments in order to prevent the more serious consequences of their disease. 

Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer – a form of cancer that is on the rise in Ontario. If diagnosed at an early stage however, hepatitis B and even liver cancer can be treated effectively. “There are excellent treatments available for hepatitis B that will prevent most of the potentially fatal complications of this disease,” says Dr. Sherman. “And yet, restrictions on funding for treatment exist in most provinces and in Ontario, those restrictions are so tight that most patients who need treatment cannot get reimbursement through the government. With a high proportion of hepatitis B patients coming from the Chinese immigrant community, these policies are particularly discriminatory. Without access to affordable and effective treatments, hepatitis B will continue to contribute to mortality in this province.”  

The Canadian Liver Foundation agrees with the report’s recommendation for more funding for research. Hepatitis C is a good example of how investment in research can pay off in a short amount of time. From the virus first being identified in the 1980s, hepatitis C has seen dramatic steps forward in treatment with more on the way. “Improved treatment for hepatitis C is just a few years away,” says Dr. Sherman.  “With these new treatments the cure rate will go up from about 45% to 75%.  These breakthroughs will give us tremendous opportunity to reduce the burden of this disease but only if the treatments are available to patients regardless of their financial resources.”

“The ICES study sheds light on serious health issues that the Canadian Liver Foundation and the hepatology community have been aware of for some time,” says Dr. Sherman.  “While we hope that this report will help open a dialogue on the financial and human costs of hepatitis B and C in this province, we call upon the government to act now to make appropriate treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C available to all those who need it to mitigate the effects of these diseases.  If this study is repeated in the future, we do not want to see hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the top 10.”


For more information, contact
Melanie Kearns
Canadian Liver Foundation
416-491-3353 ext. 4923
mkearns@liver.ca


Canadian Boomers Getting Frisky - and Risky

New Canadian Liver Foundation Poll Finds Canadian Boomers Have Active Sex Lives, But Many Aren’t Playing it Safe


October 5, 2010 – They’ve talked about the birds and they’ve talked about the bees.  But, according to a new survey from the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF), baby boomers (ages 46 to 64) aren’t following the sound advice they once gave their children and are putting themselves at risk in the process.  

While almost three quarters of Canadian boomers with children in their household (70 per cent) counsel their kids to use protection during sex, 16 per cent admit they don’t always take their own advice.  Leading the charge are unmarried boomers, with nearly a third (30 per cent) saying they’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner since turning 40. 

Boomers are facing a lot of changes at this point in their lives – be it kids leaving the nest or being newly single – but they’re not letting it hold them back.  More than half of boomers surveyed (57 per cent) feel freer now that they are older and the vast majority (82 per cent) believe it’s important to have an active sex life at every age. 

Canadian boomers are also experimenting with bold new dating styles – whether it’s seeking less serious relationships (28 per cent), being more open to a one night stand (23 per cent), or trying their hand at online dating (41 per cent). More than one in 10 boomers (14 per cent) say they like taking more risks now that they’re older. Since turning 40, many boomers have gotten or are considering getting a tattoo (20 per cent) or piercing (eight per cent).  

“Boomers definitely have a new-found zest for life - but it’s important they use it safely and wisely,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Many have been out of the dating scene for a while and need to realize there are new risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and proper precautions should be taken.”

Getting Serious About STIs
One in five boomers (20 per cent) say they use condoms less now that pregnancy is not as much of a concern.  While pregnancy risk is reduced as female partners’ age, boomers don’t seem to realize that STIs are not age-discriminate.  More than half of all boomers (56 per cent) say they’re not worried about contracting any STIs and 30 per cent of unmarried boomers aren’t worried.

For those who are concerned about STIs, some diseases are lower on their radar – like hepatitis.  When asked which STIs they’re most worried about contracting, unmarried boomers place HIV/AIDS (56 per cent), herpes (30 per cent), and syphilis (17 per cent) in their top three.  Hepatitis B was lower on the list, with only 14 per cent concerned about contracting it.  Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease spread through exposure to infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions or saliva.  It is significantly more infectious than HIV and there are approximately 10 times as many people with chronic hepatitis B in Canada as there are with HIV.   Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide and the consequences also include jaundice, extreme fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, and other health issues.

“Boomers need to learn from their teenage years and realize they’re not immortal,” says Dr. Sherman.  “Assuming that contracting a disease like hepatitis B can’t happen to them is a mistake, especially when there are simple precautionary measures they can take.”

The Power of Protection
When it comes to STIs, the most basic way to stay protected is using a condom.  But, what else can you do?  In the case of hepatitis B, vaccination is the best way to help protect yourself from contracting the virus through sex or through other known or unknown risks of exposure like getting a tattoo or piercing where inadequately sterilized instruments are used.  Only 39 per cent of Canadian boomers surveyed said they were vaccinated against hepatitis B.

“Canadians should consider getting vaccinated against hepatitis B to reduce the risk of contracting this serious liver disease,” says Dr. Sherman.  “Today in Canada, because of infant and school immunization, new cases are more likely to be in adults and can be the result of unprotected sex, or from tattoos and piercings where improperly sterilized equipment is used. What’s alarming is that in many cases, the cause may be unknown. To protect yourself against the risk factors you can identify and those you can’t, it makes sense to get immunized.”

About Viral Hepatitis in Canada
Hepatitis A, B and C are liver diseases with potentially serious consequences. People often confuse the risk factors for these three diseases and do not realize that only two – hepatitis A and B – are preventable by vaccine.

The hepatitis A virus is contracted by consuming contaminated food or drink and can be passed along by infected food service workers in a restaurant or grocery store, or by those who handle produce along the supply chain.  Hepatitis A can last from a few weeks to several months and typical symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, fever, and jaundice. The disease can be quite debilitating, causing missed days or weeks of work in healthy adults.  Severe cases of hepatitis A may require hospitalization and serious complications can include death in the elderly or those whose immune system is compromised.

In Canada, between 1990 and 2004 the number of reported hepatitis A cases varied from over 3,500 to less than 400. Due to asymptomatic infection, underdiagnosis and underreporting, the actual number of hepatitis A cases in Canada is estimated to be 10 times higher than the reported cases.  Only 38 per cent of boomers surveyed reported being vaccinated against hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B is significantly more infectious than HIV  and hepatitis B-associated liver disease kills an estimated 600,000 people worldwide each year.   There are two forms of hepatitis B: acute and chronic.  

Chronic hepatitis B infections can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liverliver cancer,  or liver failure, all of which can lead to death.  Many people who become infected don’t experience symptoms right away, so they may unknowingly pass the virus on to others like friends and family. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and jaundice. Hepatitis B is a very common disease worldwide and in many countries is mostly passed from mother to child. There are approximately 300,000 Canadians with chronic hepatitis B, and in 2008 the overall reported rate of acute hepatitis B infection in Canada was 0.74 (individuals infected) per 100,000 people living in Canada.  Hepatitis B is the world’s leading cause of primary liver cancer,  causing up to 80 per cent of liver cancer worldwide. 

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus and is spread through direct contact with the blood of an infected person. People most at risk are those who have received tattoos or body piercings with non-sterile equipment, who use (or have experimented with) injection drugs, or who received blood transfusions before 1990. Hepatitis C is not preventable by vaccine. There are an estimated 250,000 Canadians with chronic hepatitis C and between 3,200 and 5,000 individuals are newly infected with the hepatitis C virus each year.  

Canadians don’t realize it, but they make decisions every day that can have positive or negative effects on their liver. Getting educated about liver disease is a good first step to being liver healthy.   For more information on all forms of hepatitis, how to protect yourself and your family and how to help those living with hepatitis, visit the Canadian Liver Foundation at www.liver.ca.

About The Canadian Liver Foundation
The CLF is a national charity committed to promoting liver health and reducing the incidence and impact of all forms of liver disease by supporting education and research into causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment. Through its LIVERight (pronounced ‘live right’) campaign, the CLF wants to make liver health a priority for each and every Canadian – including individuals, health care professionals, government and industry. Over the past 40 years, the CLF has invested $20 million dollars in liver research and education in Canada. 

Survey Methodology
Leger Marketing surveyed 877 Canadian baby boomers (ages 46 to 64).  The online survey was conducted from July 19 – 23, 2010.  This method simulates a probability sample which would yield a maximum margin of error of +/-3.3%, 19 times out of 20.  This project was supported through an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. 

References:
Leber, A. & Sherman, M.  The modeled prevalence of chronic hepatitis B in Canada. The Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology. 2008. 
Fiore AE. Hepatitis A transmitted by food. Clin Infect Dis 2004;38:705–715. 
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/vpd-mev/hepatitis-a_e.html Public Health Agency of Canada, Vaccine Preventable Diseases.  Accessed April 16, 2008.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and Control of Infections with Hepatitis Viruses in Correctional Settings. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2003;52(RR-1):1-36.
World Health Organization, Hepatitis B Fact Sheet. Available on-line at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs204/en/,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B. In: Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 8th ed. Atlanta, Ga. 2004.
Public Health Agency of Canada, Hepatitis B: Get the Facts. Available online at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hcai-iamss/bbp-pts/hepatitis/hep_b-eng.php
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B. In: Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 8th ed. Atlanta, Ga: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2005:191-212
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B. In: Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 8th ed. Atlanta, Ga: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2005:191-212
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hepc/pubs/getfacts-informezvous/index-eng.php Public Health Agency of Canada, Hepatitis C: Get the Facts. You Can Have it and Not know it.


For more information please contact:
Melanie Kearns
416-491-3353  
mkearns@liver.ca

 

2009 Press Releases

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September 25, 2009: 1 in 10 people in Atlantic Canada have liver disease but even their doctors may not know it

September 25, 2009 – A man shows up at his doctor’s office complaining of being tired, nauseous and achy. The doctor suspects he has the flu and prescribes bed rest, fluids, some over-the-counter pain relievers and sends him home. The symptoms ease -- but 5 years later, the same man ends up in the emergency room and is diagnosed with advanced liver cancer from hemochromatosis (a common genetic liver disease that impacts those of Celtic origin resulting in iron overload of the liver). The sad fact is if the doctor had done some additional testing, this liver disease might have been diagnosed in time to prevent these severe consequences. 

This is exactly the type of scenario that the Canadian Liver Foundation, Dalhousie University Continuing Medical Education and the University of Manitoba Section of Hepatology want to avoid, which is why on September 25, 2009, they will be giving Atlantic Canada’s primary care physicians, specialists, residents and nurses a ‘crash course’ in liver healthcare. Led by some of Canada’s leading liver specialists (hepatologists), the Primary Care Hepatology one-day Continuing Medical Education (CME) Program will equip these front-line health professionals with the knowledge and tools to identify patients within their practice that may be at risk for, or suffering from, liver disease. 

“Since the liver is a very resilient and long-suffering organ, it won’t necessarily trigger any obvious symptoms, even when it’s under assault,” says hepatologist Dr. Kevork Peltekian, co-chair of the Primary Care Hepatology program and an Associate Professor at Dalhousie University. “As a result, primary care physicians have to be able to assess a patient’s risk factors, consider all the possible causes of their symptoms, test accordingly and interpret the results. Unfortunately, time pressures and lack of liver health training can leave these doctors ill-prepared to identify liver issues at the earliest stages. Through this CME program, we want to show them how to screen, diagnose, and where necessary refer, treat or manage, various liver diseases for the benefit of their patients and ultimately for the benefit of the communities in Atlantic Canada.” 

Fatty liver disease, one of the most prevalent forms of liver disease in Canada today, is a prime example of a condition that can often be reversed if it is identified before permanent damage is done to the liver. Fatty liver disease, or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), is caused by fat build-up in the liver which results in inflammation and can eventually lead to scarring (cirrhosis). As fatty liver disease is most often related to obesity, the condition can be treated through nutrition and exercise.

“The public still sees liver disease as being caused solely by alcohol or drug abuse,” says Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation and fellow co-chair of the Primary Care Hepatology program. “And unfortunately, health care professionals are not immune to these prevailing stereotypes. As a result, physicians may not perceive their patients as being at risk and may not recognize the signs and symptoms of liver disease if and when they present themselves. If liver disease is overlooked or misdiagnosed at an early stage, the consequences can be severe.” 

Primary Care Hepatology is part of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s ongoing efforts to promote professional education as a critical step in reducing the incidence of preventable and/or treatable forms of liver disease. Together, the Foundation, Dalhousie University and the University of Manitoba Section of Hepatology want to provide primary care physicians with timely and relevant liver health information covering topics such as hepatitis, fatty liver disease, immunization and hepatoxicity and that can be applied within an office-based practice. The goal of the CME program is to equip physicians with the knowledge they need to recognize the signs the symptoms of liver disease, to respond to the situation (by ordering tests, interpreting results) and to resolve the issue (through prevention, treatment, continued monitoring or referral). 

Primary Care Hepatology has been made possible by the generous support of Schering-Plough Canada Inc., GlaxoSmithKline Inc., Gilead Sciences Canada Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada Inc., Cangene Corporation and Hoffmann-La Roche Limited.

Primary Care Hepatology takes place from 7:00am to 4:00pm, Friday, September 25, 2009 in the Admiral’s Room at the Four Points by Sheraton Halifax Hotel. For more information on how to register, the program agenda, speakers and interview opportunities, please contact Melanie Kearns at 1-800-563-5483 ext. 4923 or email mkearns@liver.ca.


Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Canadian Liver Foundation was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of liver disease. In this tradition, the CLF is committed to increasing public awareness of the importance of liver health, providing funds for much-needed liver research, and creating opportunities to advance the healthcare response by providing liver health education and support at various levels within the medical community. 

University of Manitoba Section of Hepatology
As the first and only Section of Hepatology in Canada, the University of Manitoba (UM) is well poised to help deliver up-to-date and relevant liver health information to primary healthcare physicians and other allied healthcare providers. The UM Section of Hepatology is a multi-disciplinary section composed of three full-time hepatologists, an epidemiologist/statistician and scientists in many fields (such as immunology and molecular biology). 

Dalhousie University Continuing Medical Education
Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine has been meeting the continuing medical education needs of physicians in the Maritimes for over 75 years, and the CME unit was formally established in 1957. Their mission is to enhance the provision of quality health care through research and the facilitation of life long learning. 

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Canadian Liver Foundation Media Contact:
Melanie Kearns 
mkearns@liver.ca 
Toll-free: 1-800-563-5483 ext: 4923 


September 23, 2009: A career fair for the liver

Local specialist joins with University of Manitoba and Canadian Liver Foundation to recruit young doctors from across the country to become tomorrow’s liver specialists


September 23, 2009 – Young doctors finishing their internal medicine education have their pick of organs and bodily systems to specialize in – some more glamorous than others. On September 23 and 24, some of Canada’s leading liver experts will gather in Halifax to give a talented crop of medical residents their best sales pitch to convince them to choose the liver as their area of specialty. Created in 2006 in response to the critical shortage of liver specialists in Canada, the ‘Discover the World of Hepatology’ program has become a much-anticipated annual event within the medical schools and has helped increase interest in a career in clinical liver healthcare or research.

Dr. Gerald Minuk, head of the Section of Hepatology at the University of Manitoba and one of the founders of the Discover the World of Hepatology program, was the first practicing hepatologist in Canada 27 years ago. “I chose hepatology almost three decades ago because it was a rapidly emerging field of medicine, “ says Dr. Minuk, “so little was known about the liver at that time and many treatments for conditions such as hepatitis B and C, had yet to be identified. We’ve come a long way since but there are still too few cures and much that remains to be discovered. That’s why I’m still here.“

Despite the fact that fatty liver disease, hepatitis B and C and liver cancer are being diagnosed in increasing numbers, Dr. Minuk and his colleagues are a limited resource. And no one knows this better than fellow Discover of the World of Hepatology faculty member, Dr. Kevork Peltekian who spent years as Atlantic Canada’s only practicing hepatologist. “According to my research, there is currently the equivalent of one full-time practicing hepatologist for every 65,000 people with liver disease,” says Dr. Peltekian. “And with some of my colleagues looking toward retirement in the next five to 10 years and with gastroenterologists seeing fewer liver patients due to increasing demands for scoping and other procedures, we are in desperate need of new doctors to help fill the gap today and in the future.” 

Gary Fagan, President of the Canadian Liver Foundation and co-chair of the Discover the World of Hepatology program, is worried about the consequences of the shortage of talent in the liver health field. “We are already seeing long waiting lists, delayed diagnosis which can limit treatment options, increased acute care costs and less research to find better treatments and cures,” says Mr. Fagan. “1 in 10 Canadians – that’s over 3 million people - has some form of liver or biliary tract disease but many have yet to be diagnosed. The need for hepatologists is only going to increase. Now is the time to try and do something about it.” 

The University of Manitoba Section of Hepatology partnered with the Canadian Liver Foundation to establish the first dedicated ‘career-oriented’ hepatology program for medical residents as an innovative approach to the problem. The program soon became so popular that medical schools were forced to hold a lottery for the two available spots allocated to each institution. According to a survey of past participants, 14 doctors have decided upon or are considering a career in hepatology after attending the program. 

One of those doctors is Edward Tam, a first year fellow at the University of Manitoba who is currently doing an elective in liver transplantation at Dalhousie University. Dr. Tam attended Discover the World of Hepatology in 2008 and is returning this year as one of its success stories – and guest speakers. 

The two-day symposium will give participants an opportunity to hear first-hand the exciting challenges, opportunities, training options and personal career paths of some of Canada’s leading hepatology experts. Special guest Adam Moir, a liver transplant recipient and medical resident, will also present his unique perspective as both a patient and a peer. At the conclusion of the program, the attendees have a chance to see hepatology ‘knowledge translation’ in action when they participate in a one-day continuing medical education session for Atlantic Canada’s primary health care professionals. 

Discover the World of Hepatology is sponsored by Schering-Plough Canada Inc., the Public Health Agency of Canada, GlaxoSmithKline Inc., Gilead Sciences Canada Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada Inc., Cangene Corporation and Hoffmann-La Roche Limited

The symposium kicks off at 6:00pm on Wednesday, September 23 in the Admiral’s Room at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, Halifax, and continues throughout the day Thursday, September 24. For more information on the program agenda, speakers and interview opportunities, please contact Melanie Kearns at 1-800-563-5483 ext. 4923 or email mkearns@liver.ca.

Canadian Liver Foundation
Founded in 1969, the Canadian Liver Foundation was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of liver disease. In this tradition, the CLF is committed to increasing public awareness of the importance of liver health, providing funds for much-needed liver research, and creating opportunities to advance the healthcare response by encouraging more doctors to specialize in hepatology and to provide liver health education and support at various levels within the medical community. 

University of Manitoba Section of Hepatology
As the first and only Section of Hepatology in Canada, the University of Manitoba (UM) is well poised to help deliver innovative programs to attract new doctors to the field of hepatology and provide up-to-date and relevant liver health information to primary healthcare physicians and other allied healthcare providers. The UM Section of Hepatology is a multi-disciplinary section composed of three full-time hepatologists, an epidemiologist/statistician and scientists in many fields (such as immunology and molecular biology).

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Canadian Liver Foundation media contact: 
Melanie Kearns 
mkearns@liver.ca
Toll-free: 1-800-563-5483 ext: 4923


September 16, 2009: Canadians Hungry For Healthy Food, But What Are They Biting Into?

New Canadian Liver Foundation poll finds Canadians concerned about food-related illnesses, yet majority are not taking proper steps to avoid them

September 16, 2009
 – Whether it’s through fresh foods, a food handler at a grocery store, or even a local restaurant, you can unknowingly pick up unwanted viruses right here in Canada. A new survey from the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) reveals more than half of Canadians over the age of 25 (57 per cent) are concerned about contracting food-related illnesses like hepatitis A, but many are unaware that their everyday food preparation and consumption habits may put them at risk for this liver disease. 

It is a common misconception among the public that hepatitis A and B are just travellers’ diseases. Canadians are nearly twice as likely to recognize they could be exposed to hepatitis A when eating on holiday (65 per cent), versus only 35 per cent who recognize this same risk here in Canada. As we head into the winter months, locally grown food is less available and we rely even more on fresh foods imported from around the world. In the winter months Canadian imports of fresh produce nearly double, and some foods may hail from areas where hepatitis A is endemic or where sanitation practices may not be up to Canadian standards. In fact, 84 per cent of hepatitis A cases in Canada are not directly linked to travel. 

“Hepatitis A and B are global liver diseases, and know no borders. While many may consider hepatitis A and B to be travel diseases, it is important to recognize that it can affect you right here at home,” says Dr. Morris Sherman, Chairman of the Canadian Liver Foundation. “While the risks may be lower in Canada versus other parts of the world, there are still risks, and it is key to know what they are and how to help protect yourself.”

Canadians mistakenly believe common myths about the risks for contracting food-related illnesses and may have a false sense of security about their foods’ safety. Almost two-thirds of Canadians (63 per cent) incorrectly believe going to a “reputable” restaurant means they are safe from food-related illnesses. A further 58 per cent think that visiting a “reputable” grocery store would be enough to help them avoid a food-related illness. 

Knowing the risks

There are several ways in which food can become contaminated. 

From a food service worker: Hepatitis A virus can be passed along by infected food service workers in a restaurant or grocery store, or by those who handle produce along the supply chain. You may be at risk when a food service worker with hepatitis A fails to wash his or her hands properly after going to the bathroom and then touches the food you eat. 

From the food itself: Contamination can occur during irrigation, harvesting, sorting, shipping, or processing. Food can be grown in or washed with contaminated water from areas with poor sanitation standards. For example, green onions, lettuce or strawberries have been the source of hepatitis A outbreaks in the past. 

“Whether you’re getting your food from a big grocery chain, a local market or a five star restaurant, you have no idea how the food was grown, where it was processed or even how many people touched it along the way,” says Dr. Sherman. “If an infected worker is not doing a good job of washing his or her hands before touching your food, or the food was grown in contaminated soil, you could be at risk of contracting hepatitis A.”

Here are some general food safety tips on how to properly wash fresh fruits and vegetables: 

o Always wash your hands before preparing food and after going to the washroom
o Soak all fruits and vegetables for one to two minutes in clean, fresh water 
o Clean your countertop, cutting boards and utensils with hot, soapy water after each use
o Don’t forget that pre-packaged or frozen fruits and vegetables should also be well washed

Getting Protected

More than half of Canadians (51 per cent) believe they are safe from food-related illnesses as long as they wash their food before eating it. While proper hygiene and food handling can help protect against one of the risk factors for contracting hepatitis A, getting vaccinated is the best way to help protect yourself against both the known, and more importantly, the unknown and uncontrollable risks for exposure to this form of viral hepatitis. Only one in three Canadians (35 per cent) believe they are vaccinated for hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A, however, is not the only vaccine-preventable form of viral hepatitis Canadians can contract at home. Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids. Risk factors include: having unprotected sex, getting a tattoo or piercing, and getting a pedicure, dental or medical procedure where inadequately sterilized instruments are used. Just over a third of Canadians (37 per cent) believe they are vaccinated against hepatitis B.

“Canadians should consider getting vaccinated against both hepatitis A and B to reduce the risk of contracting these liver diseases here at home,” says Dr. Sherman. “Children in Canada are now vaccinated for hepatitis B in grade school, so it just makes sense for adults to consider vaccination as an effective way to help protect themselves as well.”

About Hepatitis A and B in Canada


Hepatitis A and B are serious liver diseases with potentially serious consequences.

Hepatitis A can last a few weeks to several months and typical symptoms include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, fever, and jaundice. The disease can be quite debilitating, causing missed days or weeks of work in healthy adults. Severe cases of hepatitis A may require hospitalization and serious complications can include death in the elderly or those whose immune system is compromised.

In Canada, between 1990 and 2004 the number of reported hepatitis A cases varied from over 3,500 to less than 400. Due to asymptomatic infection, underdiagnosis and underreporting, the actual number of hepatitis A cases in Canada is estimated to be 10 times higher than the reported cases. 

Hepatitis B is significantly more infectious than HIV and hepatitis B-associated liver disease kills more than one million people worldwide each year. There are two forms of hepatitis B: acute and chronic. 

Chronic hepatitis B infections can lead to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, or liver failure, all of which can lead to death. Many people who become infected don’t experience symptoms right away, so they may unknowingly pass the virus on to others like friends and family. Common symptoms include fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and jaundice. There are approximately 250,000 Canadians with chronic hepatitis B, and approximately 1,100 new hepatitis B cases were reported in 2007 . Hepatitis B is the world’s leading cause of primary liver cancer, causing up to 80 per cent of liver cancer worldwide. 

Canadians don’t realize it, but we make decisions every day that can have positive or negative effects on our liver. Getting educated about liver disease is a good first step to being liver healthy. For more information, visit the Canadian Liver Foundation at www.liver.ca, or talk to your healthcare provider to find out about vaccination options and other preventative measures.

About The Canadian Liver Foundation

The CLF is a national charity committed to promoting liver health and reducing the incidence and impact of all forms of liver disease by supporting education and research into causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment. Through its LIVERight campaign, the CLF wants to make liver health a priority for each and every Canadian – including individuals, health care professionals, government and industry. The CLF has contributed over $10 million dollars to liver research and education in Canada. 

Survey Methodology

Leger Marketing surveyed 1,521 adult Canadians aged 18 and older about contracting Hepatitis A and B in Canada. The online survey was conducted from August 17 – 20, 2009, with a confidence level of +/- 2.5 %, 19 times out of 20. The survey was supported through an educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. 


For more information please contact:
Melanie Kearns
Canadian Liver Foundation
(416) 491-3353 or 1-800-563-5483
mkearns@liver.ca


January 30, 2009: Michael Chan M.P.P. and the Canadian Liver Foundation urge Ontarians to talk more openly about hepatitis B

More than 100,000 Ontarians are living with hepatitis B 

MARKHAM, ON – January 30, 2009 – Today, the Canadian Liver Foundation was joined by Michael Chan, M.P.P., Markham-Unionville at a press conference held at Markham Stouffville Hospital to promote their effort to raise awareness and encourage open discussion about hepatitis B. 

Chronic hepatitis B affects an estimated 230,000-300,000 Canadians. Canada is home to many people who come from countries with high endemic rates of hepatitis B. For example, people born in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, southern and eastern Europe are at a much higher risk of being impacted by this disease. They may be battling the disease in silence and may not know where to go to for information and resources. 

“The Canadian Liver Foundation is doing important work to educate Ontarians about the issues surrounding hepatitis B,” said Michael Chan, M.P.P., Markham-Unionville. “The importance of talking about the disease, and encouraging our families and friends to do likewise, cannot be emphasized enough.” 

Today’s discussion focused on raising awareness and educating the public to help reduce misconceptions around the disease and encourage diagnosed patients to speak to their health care provider about the disease, its consequences and its management. Ontario has one of the highest rates of hepatitis B in Canada. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people with chronic hepatitis B are living in the province. 

“My hope is that this effort to educate the communities directly impacted by hepatitis B will help to lessen the social stigma and shame that prevents sufferers from seeking treatment and will drive people to take action to protect themselves against the disease’s potentially devastating long-term impacts,” said Canadian Liver Foundation President, Gary Fagan. “The CLF is grateful for M.P.P. Chan’s support in our effort to promote awareness about hepatitis B. He is a strong advocate for the community and we look forward to continuing our work with him on this very important initiative.” 

Hepatitis B is a serious liver health issue in Canada and a type of hepatitis that is frequently overlooked. Often called a “silent” disease, hepatitis B can cause severe liver damage for several years without showing any symptoms. In fact, chronic hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide and while death rates have declined for most forms of cancer in Canada, liver cancer is unfortunately on the rise. In addition to hearing about the risks associated with the disease and not knowing if you are affected, attendees at today’s press conference also learned about new developments and treatment approaches for the management of hepatitis B. 

“As physicians, we continue to see the harmful effects of chronic hepatitis B,” said Dr. Morris Sherman, Medical Advisor for the Canadian Liver Foundation. “Recent advances in the area of hepatitis B mean that we can now fight it better than in the past. The first step is early diagnosis, so it is extremely important for people to learn about the risks for hepatitis B and to talk to their doctors about getting tested. Coupled with education efforts, the use of new and very effective treatments will help protect against these effects by controlling the virus and preventing progression of the disease.” 


About the Canadian Liver Foundation 

The Canadian Liver Foundation is a national organization whose objective is to promote liver health, reduce the incidence and impact of all liver diseases, and improve the quality of life of the adults and children living with liver disease. This year marks the Foundation’s 40th anniversary of championing the battle against liver disease through research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of liver disease in all its forms. To date, it has invested more than $10 million in liver research, $3 million of that in the last three years. 

For more on hepatitis B, click here


Media contact:
Melanie Kearns
mkearns@liver.ca 
416-491-3353 ext 4923


January 23, 2009: Immunizing infants against hepatitis B is the most effective way of preventing long-term health complications and costs

January 23, 2009: When you have a vaccine that can prevent a chronic illness or cancer, it makes sense to immunize the most vulnerable at the earliest opportunity. That is why the Canadian Liver Foundation supports the recommendations of Dr. Christopher Mackie and his McMaster and University of British Columbia colleagues published in this week’s Canadian Medical Association Journal that universal neonatal (newborn or infant) hepatitis B immunization be implemented in all provinces. 

“Chronic hepatitis B affects an estimated 300,000 Canadians and over 350 million people world-wide,” says Dr. Kevork Peltekian, Canadian Liver Foundation Chairman and hepatologist at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Centre, Halifax. “Once an effective hepatitis B vaccine became available, the debate focused on determining the best time to vaccinate. While provinces implemented immunization programs for elementary school children in the 1990s, it still left newborns, who carry the highest risk of becoming chronic carriers, without universal protection. We applaud the provinces like New Brunswick who have led the way in implementing neonatal immunization programs and we encourage all provinces to follow suit.” 

Hepatitis B is an insidious disease which is easy to prevent but very difficult to treat. A person with acute hepatitis B may be ill for weeks with flu-like symptoms and jaundice but eventually clear the virus. A person with chronic hepatitis B however may not display symptoms until years later after the liver has already become severely damaged. There are many hepatitis B drugs available on the market but none can effectively ‘cure’ this disease and often come at a very high cost. 

The Canadian Liver Foundation has advocated for universal neonatal immunization programs since hepatitis B vaccines first came on the market in the 1980s. The Foundation took its lobbying efforts to the National Advisory Committee of Immunization (NACI) in the early 1990s but the Committee ultimately recommended the school-age program which was eventually adopted by each province. 

In their 2007 Hepatitis B Consensus Guidelines, the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver identified universal neonatal hepatitis B immunization with a catch-up program for adolescents (for those born outside of the country or who missed out on vaccination earlier) as a the ‘ideal’ vaccination policy for Canada. According to their findings, 13 health care jurisdictions administer infant and/or adolescent immunization programs across Canada – and yet no two programs are alike. As a result, children moving from province to province run the risk of missing the vaccination program in their home and their destination province.1 

In their study, Dr. Mackie and his colleagues pointed out that universal neonatal hepatitis B immunization might actually be more cost effective than adolescent programs because they could be combined with other vaccines and incorporated into the standard childhood vaccination schedule. 2 

“At a time when economic concerns are high on everyone’s priority list, we should be looking at the most cost-efficient yet effective long-term solutions to our health care issues,” says Dr. Peltekian. “The Canadian Liver Foundation and this country’s liver specialists have been recommending for years that neonatal hepatitis B immunization is the most effective way to prevent both acute and chronic hepatitis B. I’m pleased that CMAJ review article has provided additional proof that this is the ideal strategy to reduce the incidence of this disease amongst the Canadian population. I would recommend that the provinces who have yet to implement a neonatal program take a serious look at these findings.” 


About the Canadian Liver Foundation 
In 2007, the Canadian Liver Foundation launched its LIVERight initiative as a call to action to all Canadians to learn how to care for their livers to positively impact their overall health. Immunization is one way that Canadians can LIVERight to protect themselves from serious forms of liver disease like hepatitis A and B. 

Founded in 1969 by a group of doctors and business leaders concerned about the increasing incidence of liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) was the first organization in the world devoted to providing support for research and education into the causes, diagnoses, prevention and treatment of all liver disease. In 2009, the Foundation is celebrating 40 years of commitment to nurturing and protecting the liver health of Canadians. 

Through its chapters across the country, the CLF strives to promote liver health, improve public awareness and understanding of liver disease, raise funds for research and provide support to individuals affected by liver disease. 

For more Information 
Click on the following links for more information on hepatitis B, or the CLF’s LIVERight program, or contact the Canadian Liver Foundation.


References: 

1 Sherman, M. Shafran, S. Burak, K. et al. Management of chronic hepatitis B: Consensus Guidelines. Can J Gastroenterol 2007; 21 (Suppl C): p. 8C. Available online at http://www.hepatology.ca/cm/FileLib/hepB.pdf 

2 Mackie, C., Buxton, J., Tadwalkar, S., Patrick, D. Hepatitis B immunization strategies: timing is everything. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 20 Jan 2009; 180 (2), p. 200. Available online at http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/content/full/180/2/196 

Media contact: 
Melanie Kearns, Canadian Liver Foundation 
1-800-563-5483 ext. 4923 
mkearns@liver.ca