Changes to hepatitis C prescribing welcomed

Source:  ASHM

ASHM welcomes changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which will allow skilled and experienced clinicians to initiate hepatitis C treatment using direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for their patient without the need for costly consultation with specialist services.

"This will allow the relatively small number of community based clinicians: GP, sexual health physicians and drug and alcohol and addiction medicine service providers for example who have done training or developed experience in this area to initiate treatment without having to consult a third party."

"This adds to the available access points for people with hepatitis C seeking care. All clinicians, irrespective of their experience will still be able refer patients or start them on treatment if this is recommended following consultation with a specialist. So all Australians continue to have access."

"This just simplifies the process and reduces the delays for patients and their clinicians wanting to start. It also reduces the unpaid burden on specialists who are reviewing many hundreds of requests to start patients on therapy. Many of these coming from doctors who have the experience and skills to make that decision themselves."

"This is another example of Health Minister Ley's commitment to making care accessible. It recognises the commitment of the clinical community and is another step to eradicating hepatitis C in Australia", said Levinia Crooks Chief Executive Officer of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine which led the call to have these clinicians able to initiate therapy independently.

"This is not another cost to the healthcare purse, it allows more Australians to take up treatment under the cost arrangements negotiated by the government. If anything it will reduce costs," said Crooks, "as people will be able to start treatment in one visit, rather than having to wait for a review by a specialist. It will also strip hours of work out of the specialists busy week, with specialists not having to unnecessarily review the work of doctors they know have the skills to manage these patients. This will free those specialists up to provide assistance to clinicians who have no experience in hepatitis C and who may really need help to assess their hepatitis C patient's treatment needs."

"Over time, as more clinicians treat hepatitis C, we hope more will get skilled up in this area and increase the number of people working independently in this area."

View the original media release here