Published November 13, 2018
Andrew H. Talal, MD, professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, has been appointed to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s task force that will advise the state on its Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Elimination Campaign.
The task force brings together the state’s leading HCV health care providers, researchers, government leaders, patient support providers, advocates and education and social service providers.
“Gov. Cuomo was the first governor in the nation to introduce the concept of statewide elimination of hepatitis C virus infection,” Talal says. “I am honored to serve on this task force and to work with my colleagues toward achieving this challenging, but reachable, goal. It is conceivable to eliminate hepatitis C virus among patients who inject drugs, by bringing treatment and education to them where they receive treatment, such as in substance use treatment facilities.”
Talal, an expert in liver disease and HCV — especially among vulnerable populations — serves on the board of UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute and is director of the Liver Center of Western New York.
He is currently principal investigator on a five-year, $7 million Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute award dedicated to developing innovative ways to treat HCV in people with substance use disorders. The award funds efforts developed by Talal and his colleagues to use telemedicine — two-way live videoconferencing — to reach patients at a dozen substance use treatment centers throughout New York State, including in New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and the Hudson Valley. It also involves a partnership with Catholic Health.
Talal also sees patients as a physician with UBMD Internal Medicine and directs a liver diseases specialty practice at Kaleida Health’s Buffalo General Medical Center (BGMC).
At UB, and assisted by a five-year, $3 million grant from the Troup Fund of the Kaleida Health Foundation, Talal has built bridges with clinical partners at Kaleida Health and UBMD Physicians’ Group, to bring advanced liver disease care to Western New York patients through the BGMC Liver Practice.
He also focuses on expanding linkages to care for medically disenfranchised populations, such as patients who inject drugs. Based upon the success of telemedicine in the research realm, Talal is in the process of working with several Western New York entities, including Kaleida Health, to establish telemedicine consultations for HCV for care of patients on suboxone.
“Increased linkage to care for HCV is extremely important to combat the recent rise in HCV incidence as a result of the opioid epidemic,” Talal says. Similarly, prevalent cases are now witnessing the deleterious sequelae of chronic liver disease.
Indeed, a recent study found that from 1999 to 2016, deaths in the U.S. from cirrhosis of the liver, which can result from HCV, have risen 65 percent while liver cancer deaths have doubled. HCV affects more than 100,000 New Yorkers, most of whom don’t know they have the disease; it can be easily treated in many cases with new anti-viral drugs.
“Many patients on methadone have advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis as they have been infected for years. The problem is that they don’t have symptoms until it is too late,” Talal adds. “To make headway and to eventually eliminate HCV, it is crucial to disseminate the fact that new therapies cure almost everyone without side effects in two months.”