COVID isn’t the only pandemic we should be thinking about.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol-related liver disease was rampant across the country with roughly 15 million people diagnosed, and the number of alcohol-related liver disease hospitalizations doubling over the last decade. Alcohol-related liver disease is caused from the metabolism of ethanol that creates toxic byproducts that in turn cause inflammation that leads to hepatitis. Women are more susceptible to alcohol-related liver disease in comparison to men because they have lower levels of the enzyme responsible for breaking down ethanol in the metabolism process, leading to higher levels of toxins in the blood causing further organ damage than in men.
Covid-19 has only fueled the issue of alcohol-related liver disease with many people turning to the bottle in order to cope with the stresses that the pandemic has brought. According to Dr. Brian Lee a transplant hepatologist from Keck Hospital of USC, the admission of alcoholic liver disease patients is up 30% in 2020 compared to 2019. Additionally, specialists from the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Harvard University and Mount Sinai Health System in New York reported numbers up 50% since March. Leading liver disease specialists and psychiatrists believe that the isolation, unemployment, hopelessness, lack of daily structure, and boredom all caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have caused the increase of alcohol use and has led to the influx of alcohol-related liver disease cases. A study showed that the rate of adults turning to alcohol was up 14% in spring 2020 compared to in 2019. Furthermore, another study showed that drinkers consumed 30% more alcohol than in the pre-pandemic months. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many patients to relapse and become hospitalized as a result. Alcohol-related liver disease is the leading cause for transplantation and more than 1 in 20 patients with alcohol-related liver failure die before leaving the hospital. However, due to COVID-19 the mortality rate for patients with alcohol-related liver disease will increase. This is because liver disease makes people more susceptible to COVID-19; as a result, patients with liver disease die of COVID-19 at rates three times higher than those without it.
In summary, alcohol-related liver disease was the “pandemic” before COVID-19, growing greater in number of cases and killing many of the people with the disease waiting for better treatments or a transplant. The COVID-19 pandemic has only fueled the issue of alcohol-related liver disease and though the pandemic is mostly in the past, we will continue to face the repercussions of what COVID-19 has caused, in the future.
Unfortunately, patients with alcohol-related liver disease have few options of treatment that are effective and affordable. A liver transplant costs $577,100 on average. As of early 2015 an estimated 14,000 patients were on the transplant waiting list. That number has most certainly grown since.
PrimeGen has developed a solution based on its stemXcell platform that may someday save billions in healthcare costs and millions of lives by slowing the rapid progression of ACFL, long enough for a liver transplantation and/or restoring liver functions in the patient to prevent death. We are on a mission to lead the stem cell revolution and treat debilitating inflammatory diseases like ACFL caused by excessive alcohol consumption.