In the World Health Organisation European Region, more than 2,370,000 years of life are lost from liver disease before the age of 50; more than lung cancer, trachea, bronchus, oesophageal, stomach, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer combined. Between 60-80% of these deaths are alcohol related, a disease for which no pharmaceutical therapy has yet been shown to improve long-term survival. The toxicity of alcohol is dose related at an individual level, and is dose related at a population level; overall liver mortality is largely determined by population alcohol consumption. Trends in alcohol consumption correlate closely with trends in overall liver mortality, with 3-5-fold decreases or increases in liver mortality in different European countries over the last few decades. The evidence base for alcohol control measures aimed at reducing population alcohol consumption has been subjected to rigorous evaluation; most recently by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). Effective alcohol policy measures reduce alcohol mortality, including mortality from liver disease. The most effective and cost effective measures have been summarised by the OECD and the World Health Organisation: regular incremental above inflation tax increases, a minimum price for alcohol, effective protection of children from alcohol marketing and low level interventions from clinicians. Simple, cheap and effective changes to alcohol policy by European Institutions and member states have the potential to dramatically reduce liver mortality in Europe.
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© 2015 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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