NIH News Advisory
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
Office of the Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Mar. 18, 1997

Bill Hall
301-496-4819
Leslie Curtis
301-496-3585

Consensus Development Conference on Management of Hepatitis C

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will hold a Consensus Development Conference on Management of Hepatitis C. The conference will be held March 24-26, 1997 in the main auditorium of the William H. Natcher Building on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. A news conference* will conclude the 3-day meeting at 1 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 26, 1997.

Nearly four million Americans (about 1.4 percent of the U.S. population) are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and chronic infection with HCV is probably the single most important cause of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer in the Western world. Many people infected with HCV may not develop symptoms for many years after infection, and, in the meantime, could be unwittingly passing the virus to others. HCV is spread mainly through contact with infected blood and blood products. In the U.S., the sharing of unsterilized needles and syringes is the main reason for the spread of the virus. There is no prevention for hepatitis C, and interferon therapy is the only currently available treatment. However, only half of patients respond to this therapy, and 50 to 80 percent of those who do respond relapse when treatment is stopped.

After 11/2 days of presentations and audience discussion, an independent, nonadvocate, non-Federal consensus panel will weigh the totality of the evidence presented and write a draft consensus statement outlining their conclusions and recommendations on the management of hepatitis C. The panel's statement will address the following questions:

The panel will present its draft statement to the public for comment on the morning of the third and final day of the conference. Following this public comment session, the panel will release its final consensus statement at the news conference and take questions from the media. The consensus statement is the report of an independent panel and is not a policy statement of the NIH or the Federal Government.

The consensus panel will be chaired by Donald Powell, M.D., Professor and Chairman, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Dr. Powell will moderate the news conference.

The NIH Consensus Development Program was established in 1977 as a form of "science court" to resolve in an unbiased manner controversial topics in medicine. To date, NIH has conducted 120 such conferences addressing a wide range of controversial medical issues important to health care providers, patients, and the general public. An average of six consensus conferences are held each year.

Additional information about this conference, including the meeting agenda and area hotels, is also available at the NIH Consensus Development Program web site at http://consensus.nih.gov. To register for the conference, call 301-770-3153.


* NOTE TO TELEVISION NEWS DIRECTORS: This news conference will be broadcast live via satellite beginning at 1 p.m. EST, Wednesday, March 26. Following are the coordinates for this broadcast: Galaxy 3, Transponder 15, Downlink Frequency: 4000, Audio: 6.2 and 6.8.