Hep B Blog

Help Stop Insurers from Over-Charging Patients for Hepatitis B Drugs on the Healthcare Marketplace

Image courtesy of Taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Christine Kukka

For years, people with pre-existing conditions like chronic hepatitis B struggled to get health insurance. News stories and Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko highlighted insurance companies’ refusal to cover pre-existing conditions and their practice of inflating premium prices if consumers had chronic health problems.

Outraged by industry efforts to cover only low-cost, “healthy” consumers, lawmakers banned discrimination  against pre-existing conditions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA – Obamacare). The ACA’s Healthcare Marketplace website promises, “Your insurance company can’t turn you down or charge you more because of your pre-existing health or medical condition like asthma, back pain, diabetes, or cancer.”

While health plans sold on the marketplace can’t openly refuse to insure people with pre-existing conditions, some have devised an insidious way to discourage people with hepatitis B from buying their policies. They have dramatically increased the copays consumers pay out-of-pocket for the two leading hepatitis B antiviral drugs (Viread and generic entecavir) to deliberately make their health plans unaffordable for people with chronic hepatitis B. Continue reading "Help Stop Insurers from Over-Charging Patients for Hepatitis B Drugs on the Healthcare Marketplace"

Forget Surface Antibodies, If You Have Both Undetectable Viral Load and HBsAg, You Might Be Functionally “Cured”

Dr. Robert Gish
Dr. Robert Gish

By Christine Kukka

For decades, people living with chronic hepatitis B were told they would be “cured” only when they lost the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and developed surface antibodies. It represented the holy grail of recovery that everyone hoped for, but very few achieved.

Today, experts are redefining what constitutes a “functional cure” from chronic hepatitis B and taking the surface antibody out of the equation.

Researchers, including expert Dr. Robert Gish, suggest if people have an undetectable viral load (HBV DNA), undetectable HBsAg, and no signs of liver damage, they may be “functionally cured,” even if they haven’t developed surface antibodies. The cure is called “functional” because the only cure for hepatitis B is when the immune system controls or suppresses the virus. Continue reading "Forget Surface Antibodies, If You Have Both Undetectable Viral Load and HBsAg, You Might Be Functionally “Cured”"

Taking Antivirals Long-Term for Hepatitis B? Should You Worry About Bone Loss?

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

By Christine Kukka

To prevent liver damage and cirrhosis and reduce the risk of liver cancer–especially in older patients who’ve had hepatitis B for decades–doctors often prescribe long-term antiviral treatment. But some antivirals cause minor bone loss, which poses a problem for older patients with osteoporosis.

According to experts, the risk of bone loss from long-term antiviral treatment is low, and in fact some antivirals do not cause any bone loss at all. But if you are starting antivirals at an older age, or if you have been on antivirals long-term, experts recommend you monitor your potassium and vitamin D levels and regularly test for bone loss in the hip area so you know if you are experiencing bone loss and need a calcium or vitamin D supplement. Continue reading "Taking Antivirals Long-Term for Hepatitis B? Should You Worry About Bone Loss?"

“Hepatitis on the Hill” Advocates Fight for Hepatitis Prevention, And So Can You

Hepatitis on the Hill advocates, March 2016.
Hepatitis on the Hill advocates, March 2016.

On Tuesday, March 8, more than 120 advocates from across the U.S. fanned out on Capitol Hill to talk to their representatives about the importance of funding the Viral Hepatitis Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dozens of people laid their hearts on the line and told their stories about how they, their families, and friends have been touched by hepatitis.

In meetings with Congressional staff, and in some cases their senators, they shared stories about family members who discovered they had hepatitis B only when they were diagnosed with late-stage, inoperable liver cancer. Others talked about how lucky they were to have been immunized at birth, considering their mothers were infected. Courageous advocates described losing loved ones to hepatitis B and C spread through the heroin epidemic, and recalled indifferent healthcare workers who saw only addicts instead of human beings who had  lost their battle with both addiction and hepatitis.

Our goal was to get our representatives to allocate more funding for CDC’s hepatitis division, which is sorely needed. It’s CDC’s job to investigate disease outbreaks and educate the public and healthcare providers about infectious disease. For example, CDC publishes a variety of reports and promotional materials to educate people how to protect themselves against hepatitis B and C. The agency also funds a “hepatitis coordinator” in nearly every state whose job it is to help prevent hepatitis, investigate outbreaks, and collect data—a Herculean task for just one person. Continue reading "“Hepatitis on the Hill” Advocates Fight for Hepatitis Prevention, And So Can You"

Make a Vine Video with #HepBUnite for the 2016 Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign!

hepb-united-btn

 

How do you unite for hepatitis B?      VINE TO WIN!

 

Join Hep B United for a national hepatitis B awareness campaign. Create an action-oriented awareness message about hepatitis B through a six-second Vine ​video! Hep B United will use selected video entries in its social media efforts in May 2016 to help promote Hepatitis Awareness Month. Your video could be included in its national awareness campaign!

Eligibility: ​Anyone and everyone may participate! You do not have to be a member of Hep B United or any organization.

What to Do: ​Use Vine to create a six-second ​video (click for example) focusing on the 2016 theme “#HepBUnite: How you unite for hepatitis B.” You can create your video alone, or with a group. Your message should focus on how you are united around hepatitis B. You could highlight hepatitis B prevention activities that you participate in, or feature a key fact about hepatitis B in your video. Although not required, Hep B United encourages you to use the materials available from the Know Hepatitis B campaign!

How to Enter:

  1. Between April 11 and April 29, post your video to either Vine, Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to include the hashtag “​ #hepbunite”​ and tag @HepBUnited.
  2. Submit your video link with your name and contact information by e-mail to connect@hepbunited.org​.

Contest Entry Requirements

  1. Each video must be original.
  2. Each video must include the hashtag ​“#hepbunite” and tag @HepBUnited on Twitterand/or Facebook in order to track the videos.
  3. Videos should not include any material that would require the consent of any third party or violate any copyright, privacy right, or any other right of a third party. If used, Know Hepatitis B campaign materials should be used in their entirety and retain the CDC and HBU logos.
  4. Submissions including offensive language, imagery or themes will be excluded from the competition.

Be Creative and Have Fun!

  • Be creative to get across your hepatitis B awareness message!
  • Need inspiration? Looking for video ideas? Consider “linking arms,” “flexing your muscles to combat hep B,” “running in a group,” “group high five,” or “shout out with office staff/community groups!”
  • Check out the ​Hep B United or ​Know Hepatitis B Campaign website for background statistics and resources you can use!

Selection of Winners and Prizes

  • Selected videos will be included in the 2016 May Hepatitis Awareness Month Hep B United social media campaign.
  • Selected videos will be included in the creation of additional materials promoting hepatitis B awareness around the U.S.
  • Three finalists will be chosen by a panel of judges as best exemplifying the 2016 #HepBUnite theme.
  • A Grand Prize winner will be chosen from the three finalists and will win $100. The two remaining finalists will each win $50.
  • The finalists will be notified by email, and the grand prize winning video will be revealed to the public in mid-May through social media and press releases.

Selected entries will be included in the Hep B United social media campaign! Two finalists will win $50 each!
One Grand Prize winner will win $100!

Submission Period: Post and submit your Vines between
April 11 and April 29, 2016, (contest closes at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on April 29)

Questions? Please contact Pavitri Dwivedi at ​Pavitri.Dwivedi@hepb.org