July 1(Friday)

Increasing Research Funds for Hepatitis B


A few days ago, I met with the plaintiffs' group for lawsuits over hepatitis B and apologized to them. At that time, the patients strongly requested that therapeutic drugs be developed that could cure hepatitis B. Immediately on the spot, I instructed the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare to begin work on this.


It is important that we start actual work as soon as possible in order to swiftly move this issue forward. That is why today, I asked physician and Parliamentary Secretary of Health, Labour and Welfare Dr. Mitsunori Okamoto to visit my office to explain to me the direction of research on hepatitis B and discussed related topics with them.


About 2 billion yen is budgeted this fiscal year for the ongoing "Seven-Year Strategy for Hepatitis Research" and other related programs. It goes without saying that for patients, nothing could be more desirable than to propel research forward and develop a cure for hepatitis B by increasing the funding in this area.


Furthermore, taking a rather long-term perspective on the issue, I do not believe that increased funding for hepatitis B research will pose a problem to the reality of  Japan's current difficult fiscal situation. By advancing research, we can lower the incidence rate of the disease and prevent those who have it from becoming worse. In doing so, the amount of money for the settlement package to be paid out to patients by the national Government can be minimized overall (the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare estimates the total cost of settlements to be up to 3.2 trillion yen over the next 30 years). I have instructed relevant parties to see to it that funding for research into the treatment of hepatitis is increased.


I wrote two days ago on this blog that, "demonstrating the phrase 'starting line' through concrete actions is the duty of the government, starting today." We have now taken the first step toward this.

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