[EVENT REPORT] Launch of the MEP Friends of the Liver Group

[PRESENTATIONS] Patrizia Burra & Tatiana Reic

[PRESS RELEASE] Launch of the MEP Friends of the Liver Interest group to tackle a silent epidemic


Participants included representatives of civil society organisations, EU institutions, member states, researchers and other stakeholders dealing directly and indirectly with chronic diseases and health-related research and policy. The seminar aimed to:

  • Raise awareness about liver disease and its links to other chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
  • Promote effective prevention measures on obesity and alcohol to reduce and prevent liver disease.
  • Advocate for EU policies to ensure that all patients have access to the best treatments and medicines.
  • Ensure that Horizon 2020 provides funds for liver health research and related conditions.

During the seminar, the speakers pointed out that liver diseases are extremely high-cost not only in economic terms, but also in terms of human suffering. In addition, a considerably large part of society is not aware of some liver conditions and this implies a double challenge when dealing with these diseases. Liver disease is related to other conditions (cystic fibrosis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cardiovascular diseases) and there is scientific evidence which demonstrates the growing burden of these conditions on our society. Although these diseases affect everyone, poor and young people are especially vulnerable and the number of children suffering from liver disease is increasing.

The group advocated for more prevention of liver diseases in order to decrease societal costs, with particular emphasis on tackling alcohol- and obesity-related liver conditions with evidence-based policy measures. The OECD estimates that 52% of the EU population is overweight or obese, which is increasing in adolescents, and anticipates that as many as a third of these people will also have Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

In 2013, 29 million people in the EU were documented as suffering from a chronic liver condition; liver cirrhosis accounted for around 170,000 deaths whilst liver cancer accounted for around 47,000 deaths. Regarding the EU Alcohol Strategy, the Commission proposed a 2006-2012 Strategy and established the European Alcohol and Health Forum with the aim of reducing alcohol-related harm. This strategy was successful in coordinating member states’ activities across different areas - raising awareness of alcohol harm, protecting children and unborn children, improving road safety, reducing workplace drinking and improving the evidence base. However, the Strategy was not successful in reducing alcohol-related harm.

The 2006-2012 Strategy has been replaced by a 2 year Action Plan, which is mainly focused on youth and binge drinking. However, member states, MEPs and public health organisations are calling on the Commission to bring forward a new and more ambitious EU Alcohol Strategy. Moreover, the European Parliament adopted a resolution in April, which calls on the Commission to update the EU Alcohol Strategy. The resolution includes a call for legislation on mandatory labelling of calories in alcohol. MEP Biljana Borzan, co-chair of the Friends of the Liver MEP interest group, concluded by proposing to send a written question to the Commission to issue a new EU Alcohol Strategy.

The European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) is a membership organisation for hepatology health professionals based in Geneva (Switzerland). EASL currently has just over 4,000 members from over 100 countries. The EASL annual congress now attracts over 10,000 participants and is the biggest medical liver congress in the world. EASL will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2015.

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Last modified on June 9 2015.