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Unmet Need in Hepatitis C Gets Boost from Innovative Partnership

Boehringer Ingelheim makes significant investment in groundbreaking hepatitis C program with two leading researchers from the Francis Family Liver Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital University Health Network

BURLINGTON, ON, Oct. 23, 2013 /CNW/ - In a move to address a significant unmet need in hepatitis C in Canada, the University Health Network (UHN), together with Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. (BICL), announced today a multi-year partnership that aims to improve care, education and support for patients with hepatitis C. The program, known as Link-C, aims to improve access to hepatitis C care and treatment in remote areas of Ontario and other parts of Canada.

A large number of Canadians with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed. According to a single estimate, 21 per cent of Canadians infected with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed, however, some experts believe that this figure may be higher.iIn addition, many Canadians, particularly those living in remote areas, lack access to local care and treatment.ii While hepatitis C is an infection that can be cured, hepatitis C treatment and management is highly specialized and available from a limited group of health care providers with such expertise.iii

The UHN/BICL partnership, which is supported through a $600,000 grant from BICL, is designed to support and motivate additional health care providers in rural areas to develop the expertise necessary to treat the disease. These funds will be focused on training physicians to actively engage and inform patients about the risk factors and optimal treatment options. Furthermore, the program will also inform recommendations for an optimal screening program.

"We recognize that an alarming number of Canadians lack timely access to hepatitis C care, which is why we've developed the Link-C program," said Dr. Jordan Feld, Francis Family Liver Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital, a part of the University Health Network. "The diagnosis can be life-changing, yet there is a gap in awareness among patients and caregivers about the disease itself, its implications and treatment options. Link-C will bring education and support to more health care professionals so that we can improve care for the men and women with hepatitis C in Canada."

Hepatitis C affects at least 240,000 Canadians with some estimates as high as 400,000. iv Left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to scarring of the liver, liver failure and potentially liver cancer.v As there are a limited number of physicians who treat hepatitis C, patients can experience lengthy wait times.vi The goal of Link-C is to broaden the pool of health care professionals with expertise in hepatitis C, thereby increasing the number of health care professionals who can diagnose, treat and manage the disease.

"In addition to equipping additional health care providers with the expertise to identify and treat hepatitis C, Link-C will also engage and inform patients about the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options," said Dr. Hemant Shah, Director of Education, Francis Family Liver Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital. "Ultimately, I think a program like Link-C will help build towards a national screening program. Hepatitis C is the only chronic viral infection that is curable, so the more we can provide access to information and education for patients and caregivers, the more effective we will be at ensuring that patients can deal with and manage this condition before it yields further and much more serious complications such as liver failure and cancer."

According to data from 2009, approximately 10,000 to 12,000 new cases of hepatitis C are diagnosed in Canada each year.vii Increasing the number of health care providers who can treat and manage hepatitis C will help diagnose and cure the growing number of patients living with this disease.

Boehringer Ingelheim is working with hepatitis C experts to address the unmet medical need of many Canadians with this disease. "As a leader in advanced therapeutics for infectious diseases, including hepatitis C, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd. could not be more pleased to be partnering with the University Health Network on this program to address a significant area of unmet need facing hepatitis C patients," said Dr. Ted Witek, president and CEO, Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd . "We are delighted to be supporting the Link-C program, which will address some of the critical barriers to better care for both patients with hepatitis C and those who treat it."

About Link-C
The Link-C program is composed of three pillars:

  • Increase the number of primary care providers treating hepatitis C outside of urban centres so that patients in remote areas can be treated locally.
  • Encourage patients to be screened and diagnosed, educate them about the symptoms and treatments available for hepatitis C, and involve them in the management of their care.
  • Inform recommendations for an effective screening protocol for hepatitis C through the review and analysis of diagnostic, cancer and patient outcome data.

About Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease and a leading cause of chronic liver disease, transplant and failure that affects as many as 150 million people globally.viii In Canada, an estimated 240,000 individuals, with some estimates as high as 400,000 are infected with the disease.ix The Canadian Liver Foundation estimates that since 2007 approximately 500 people die from hepatitis C-related illnesses in Canada each year.x The number of hepatitis C-associated illnesses, including cirrhosis, liver failure, liver death and the need for liver transplants will likely double or triple in the next decade.xi

About University Health Network 
University Health Network includes Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, neurology, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. For more information, please go to www.uhn.ca.

About Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, it operates globally with 145 affiliates and more than 44,000 employees.

Since it was founded in 1885, the family-owned company has been committed to researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing novel products of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine. As a central element of its culture, Boehringer Ingelheim pledges to act socially responsible. Involvement in social projects, caring for employees and their families, and providing equal opportunities for all employees form the foundation of the global operations. Mutual cooperation and respect, as well as environmental protection and sustainability are intrinsic factors in all of Boehringer Ingelheim's endeavours.

In 2011, Boehringer Ingelheim posted net sales of 13.2 billion euro while spending almost 24% of net sales in its largest business segment Prescription Medicines on research and development.

The Canadian headquarters of Boehringer Ingelheim was established in 1972 and is home to more than 750 employees across the country. For more information please visit www.boehringer-ingelheim.ca.


i Shah, H.A. et al. A Canadian screening program for hepatitis C: Is now the time? CMAJ. 2013.
ii Ontario Hepatitis C Task Force. A proposed strategy to address hepatitis C in Ontario 2009-2014. 2009.
iii Myers, R. et al. An update on the management of chronic hepatitis C: Consensus guidelines from the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver. Can J Gastroenterol, Vol. 26, No 6, June 2012.
iv Sherman, M et al. Liver disease in Canada: A crisis in the making. Report by Canadian Liver Foundation. From web site. 2013.
v Sherman, M et al. Liver disease in Canada: A crisis in the making. Report by Canadian Liver Foundation. From web site. 2013.
vi Myers, R. et al. An update on the management of chronic hepatitis C: Consensus guidelines from the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver. Can J Gastroenterol, Vol. 26, No 6, June 2012.
vii Sherman, M et al. Liver disease in Canada: A crisis in the making. Report by Canadian Liver Foundation. From web site. 2013.
viii Hepatitis C. World Health Organization. From web, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs164/en/. Accessed October 11, 2013.
ix Sherman, M et al. Liver disease in Canada: A crisis in the making. Report by Canadian Liver Foundation. From web site. 2013.
x Sherman, M et al. Liver disease in Canada: A crisis in the making. Report by Canadian Liver Foundation. From web site.
xi Zou, S. et al. Epidemiology and Health Care Planning: Estimating the Burden of Hepatitis C in Canada. Health Canada.

SOURCE Boehringer Ingelheim (Canada) Ltd.

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