BRUSSELS, May 31, 2017 /PRNewswire/ --
Leading European and national policy-makers, decision-makers, experts, medical specialists and patient advocacy groups active in liver diseases met at the first European- NAFLD-NASH Policy Summit. They called for concrete action across Europe in the face of the next major public health challenge to be faced in Europe.
The Summit was organised by the European Liver Patients' Association, in partnership with the European Association for the Study of the Liver. The event took place in the European Parliament (Brussels) and was hosted by Alojz Peterle, Member of the European Parliament.
Participants explored potential measures to reduce the burden of the disease and to mitigate the impact that NAFLD-NASH will have on the sustainability of healthcare systems. "The seriousness of NAFLD and the potential impact it will have on healthcare systems needs to be recognised and addressed before we encounter an epidemic across Europe," stated Tatjana Reic, President of ELPA.
NAFLD, which has become the most common chronic liver disorder in Europe and the U.S., and NASH are seen as lifestyle conditions. The socio-economic costs are not fully recognised. Current research suggests that being overweight or obese and metabolic syndromes such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension are common conditions in patients affected by NAFLD. The prevalence of NAFLD in the general population ranges from 20% to 30% in Europe and will become the leading cause of liver transplantation in the next 10-20 years.
These diseases are not a policy or a treatment priority in the EU. Liver disease strategies are missing or are not implemented across Europe. Against this scenario Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research and Innovation stressed the "need to scale up efforts in research and innovation [to] develop simple, cost-effective and non-invasive tests" that will allow to "improve guidance to member states on primary care and better management" he continued.
"This Summit [is] intended to trigger a serious debate around NAFLD, to increase the policy focus on this imminent public health challenge that Europe is facing," stated Tatjana Reic. "The community needs to take action to establish effective policies for early detection and effective therapies, and put more effort into prevention policies across the European Union."
Prof Helena Cortez-Pinto, the EU Counsellor at EASL, reminded MEPs that they had a key role to play in prevention but pointed out that they have just missed a rare opportunity to restrict the marketing of junk food to minors when debating the Audio Visual Media Services Directive. "Childhood obesity is the plague of the 21st century and MEPs could have tightened restrictions on marketing to minors," she said. "Unfortunately they chose not to take this step. They talk the talk but don't walk the walk." We are going to spend billions and billions of Euros in the next decades, trying to cure diseases that might have easily been prevented with simple measures, such as those restrictions. She called on MEPs and the Member States to remedy this in the trialogues on the proposal that will start in June or July.
"As Members of the European Parliament we were elected to represent the voice of the European citizens. When it comes to health issues we must therefore speak in one voice with our patients and do everything in our power and position to put NAFLD-NASH challenge in the centre of our policy efforts," MEP Alojz Peterle, stated.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), refers to the accumulation of excess fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol.
- People may have the more serious condition non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, (NASH).