New Hep C treatment on PBS welcome - but still more to do

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listing of Viekira Pak® and Viekira Pak-RBV® from 1 May is a very welcome addition to the highly effective new generation treatment options for people living with hepatitis C.

Viekira Pak® is a new multi-drug treatment regimen for hepatitis C genotype 1, which combines paritaprevir-ritonavir, ombitasvir and dasabuvir, used with, or without, ribavirin.  It will be available on the PBS from 1 May 2016 along with the existing direct-acting antiviral medicines that were listed from March this year. Australian clinical data recently released demonstrates an overall cure rate of greater than 90% and 100% in those without cirrhosis.

We know that several thousand people have commenced treatment since 1 March. Hepatitis Australia understands that the number of people receiving treatment in March 2016 has matched, or exceeded the number of people receiving treatment during the whole of 2014.

This good news is tempered by the fact that some people living with less common hepatitis C genotypes are still desperately waiting for new treatments to become available without the terrible side-effects of the older medicine.

“I find it really heartbreaking that genotypes 4 to 6 - which make up only a very small percentage of the hep C population in Australia still can't have access to interferon free treatment. We were waiting with hope ― like everyone else ― only to be left behind again.”  Facebook follower 30/3/16

There are six main genotypes (strains) of the hepatitis C virus. In Australia, the most prevalent (90%) genotypes are 1 and 3. The currently approved treatments in Australia provide a number of interferon-free options for genotypes 1, 2 and 3. Under current guidelines, people with genotypes 4, 5 and 6 still have to experience the debilitating side- effects associated with pegylated interferon.

 Trials of treatment regimens that are effective across all hepatitis C genotypes (pan-genotypic medicines) are continuing, but it is currently unclear how long Australians will need to wait for these to become available on the PBS. Once approved, the introduction and PBS listing of pan-genotypic medicines will be the next major step in treating and eliminating hepatitis C in Australia.

In the meantime, people with the less common genotypes ― 4, 5, or 6, can speak to their hepatitis specialist about clinical trials or early access programs being conducted by the pharmaceutical companies.

For further information please go our Hepatitis C Treatment Factsheet which can be accessed via this link: www.hepatitisaustralia.com/newtreatments