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Approximately 12 million people have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in Germany. NAFLD is primarily caused by an unhealthy lifestyle which is characterised by too little exercise and excessive caloric intake. In around a third of patients, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease develops into non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). If the disease progresses undetected and thus untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as liver cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure.
Patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease often have additional metabolic disorders and diseases that in themselves pose a large hazard to health and carry an increased risk of mortality. These associated conditions include, in particular, obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease.
Thus, it is imperative that patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease receive intensive multidisciplinary medical care. Even if the focus of liver disease is on the treatment of the liver, any existing comorbidities must be integrated in the patient’s diagnosis and course of treatment, from the diagnosis to therapy and monitoring.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not a new disease, yet routine care data suggest that it has been significantly underdiagnosed, and many patients find their way to the doctor late and only in advanced stages. However, in view of its prevalence and the resources in the health care system, the discussion about adequate care for these patients is gaining momentum.
In order to establish interdisciplinary and holistic care concepts for fatty liver disease patients (with multiple morbidities), not only must the medical professional societies work closely together, but healthcare policy in particular must also create legal framework conditions that allow for the best possible medical care structure.
This position paper is intended to draw the attention of political actors in the field of healthcare to the existing gaps in care and thus to initiate the healthcare policy discourse. Together with well-known experts and the support of Intercept Pharma Deutschland GmbH, Kautz5 gUG has drafted a political position paper. The coordination office is provided by the Berlin agency Miller & Meier Consulting GmbH.