Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (Nasdaq: VRTX) today announced that it has awarded 16 grants totaling approximately $1.5 million to a variety of academic, patient and community groups as part of the Vertex Hep-C Circle of Care program, a pilot competitive grants program designed to foster innovative approaches to patient care and support people living with chronic hepatitis C. This program is in addition to the ongoing Vertex grants program.
In the United States, nearly 4 million people have chronic hepatitis C and an estimated 75 percent of them are unaware of their infection. This high burden of disease has significant medical, social and economic consequences. Despite improvements in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection, people continue to face a number of critical barriers to achieving optimal care such as access to appropriate health care, keeping track of medication doses, issues associated with mental illness or substance abuse and the need for ongoing counseling and emotional support during treatment. Through the Hep-C Circle of Care initiative, Vertex seeks to fund innovative, sustainable and transferable programs that have the potential to improve care for people with chronic hepatitis C by providing care coordination, emotional or other needed support.
Sixteen grant recipients were selected out of 110 applicants from a wide variety of academic institutions, professional medical societies, community-based organizations and patient advocacy groups. Two categories of grants were awarded (up to $50K and up to $250K) to applicants who best demonstrated a creative approach to patient-centered care with a measurable impact on the future of hepatitis C management. These programs have a special focus on people with hepatitis C who are most in need of services and support including those living in rural areas, African Americans, those with a history of IV drug use and those facing serious mental illness.
"As a company, our commitment to people with hepatitis C extends far beyond our efforts to develop new medicines. To stem the tide of this epidemic, we need to work with the community to remove barriers and connect people with appropriate and fully-supported care," said Camilla Graham, M.D., Vice President of Global Medical Affairs for Vertex. "We hope these grants will fund programs to identify, evaluate and share new patient-centered approaches that will help people with hepatitis C get the best care possible."
Programs were selected by a multidisciplinary group of experts, which included three reviewers external to Vertex who represent the hepatitis C community: Andrew J. Muir, M.D., M.H.S., director of GI/hepatology research at Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University; Tracy Swan, Hepatitis/HIV Project Director for the Treatment Action Group; and Lucinda K. Porter, R.N., Hepatitis C Support Project (HCSP) board member, community educator and writer, along with Vertex staff.
Examples of selected 2011 Hep-C Circle of Care programs:
San Francisco General Hospital Foundation/Positive Health Program at SFGH (San Francisco, CA) will foster a primary care-based model to increase hepatitis C education, evaluation and treatment in diverse settings serving marginalized and vulnerable people in San Francisco.
The Frederick County Hepatitis Clinic, Inc. (Frederick, MD) will implement a call-back program to engage patients with advanced genotype 1 hepatitis C, conduct patient education programs and update materials and databases.
O.A.S.I.S. Clinic (Organization to Achieve Solutions in Substance-Abuse) (Oakland, CA) will develop a hepatitis C toolkit for drug treatment programs to improve the care and treatment of persons at highest risk for hepatitis C.
VOCAL-NY (Brooklyn, NY) will implement a systems change project to improve hepatitis C care coordination and collaboration in New York's opioid treatment programs to rapidly scale up access to hepatitis C care.
Malama Pono Health Services (Lihue, HI) will identify challenges and successes in linking people living with hepatitis C to medical care in a rural, geographically contained environment through peer support and case management.
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (HepTREC) (Philadelphia, PA) will develop tools for use at patient intake and during treatment decision-making to facilitate care coordination in hepatitis C treatment settings.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated