Thousands missing out on hep C cures: Australians urged to ‘Just Ask’
24 July 2018
The number of Australians receiving breakthrough antiviral therapy to cure hepatitis C has sharply declined, prompting urgent appeals for more Australians living with the virus to come forward to be cured.
A new analysis released by Hepatitis Australia, ahead of World Hepatitis Day on 28 July, identifies three phases to the uptake of hepatitis C cures since they received government funding in March 2016:
- · High uptake: average of 3,400 initiations per month from March to November 2016
- · Stable Uptake: average of 1,800 initiations per month from December 2016 to November 2017
- · Low Uptake: average of 1,300 initiations per month since December 2017.
Around 60,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C since these medicines were first added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2016, however it is estimated that more than 170,000 Australians are still living with the virus.
Without urgent action to identify people with hepatitis C, they remain at increased risk of serious liver disease, including liver failure, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and possible death.
Great progress on viral hepatitis but still too early to celebrate.
6 November 2017
The number of Australians living with hepatitis C and advanced liver disease has fallen for the first time in ten years but elimination of the virus remains uncertain, according to campaigners.
Published today, the Kirby Institute’s latest Annual Surveillance Report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible Infections in Australia reveals that between March and December 2016, an estimated 30,343 people were cured of hepatitis C following treatment with new direct acting antiviral therapy.
Responding to the Kirby Institute’s report, Hepatitis Australia’s Acting CEO Kevin Marriott said that Australia needs to capitalise on this early success to ensure all Australians impacted by viral hepatitis have access to effective treatment and care.
Medical miracles welcome, but barriers to elimination remain
28 July 2017
Federal Government funding of a breakthrough antiviral medicine that can cure all forms of hepatitis C must be matched by a concerted effort to reconnect people living with the liver-destroying virus with clinical care.
Speaking on World Hepatitis Day (28 July), CEO of Hepatitis Australia Helen Tyrrell welcomed the Federal Health Minister’s announcement that the first pan-genotypic antiviral, Epclusa® would be PBS listed from 1 August. The new therapy is more than 90 per cent effective in achieving a cure within 12 weeks, regardless of hepatitis C genotype.
“Australians living with hepatitis C now have unprecedented access to curative therapies; however this is only the first step to eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat in Australia,” Ms Tyrell warned.
“Equipping health care professionals to feel confident engaging their patients in conversations about hepatitis C and the availability of cures must now become a focus,” she said.
“We must also communicate to those living with the condition that a life free from
hepatitis C can be a reality.”
Epclusa (sofosbuvir 400 mg/velpatasvir 100 mg) is a pan-genotypic regimen for the treatment of adults with genotype 1-6 chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The therapy is used in combination with ribavirin in patients with cirrhosis.
Prospect of elimination at hand, but barriers to treatment must be overcome
28 July 2017
Despite the availability of antiviral medicine that can cure all forms of hepatitis C, more effort is required to reconnect people living with the liver-destroying virus with medical care.
Speaking on World Hepatitis Day (28 July), CEO of Hepatitis Australia Helen Tyrrell warned that “access to hepatitis C cures on the PBS is only part of the solution”.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C - drivers for liver cancer
4 January 2017
Curing hepatitis C and vaccinating against hepatitis B could help drive down liver cancer rates in Australia. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer in Australia. HCC most commonly occurs in people with liver disease: particularly in people with chronic hepatitis B and C.
The estimated incidence of liver cancer in Australia has been steadily increasing from 1,690 people affected in 2014 to 1,840 people in 2016. Similarly, the number of deaths from liver cancer each year has increased with 1,805 deaths in 2016.
“World Cancer Day is a good time to be mindful of the role hepatitis B and C plays in the concerning increase in the incidence of liver cancer in Australia”, says Kevin Marriott, Director of Policy and Programs at Hepatitis Australia.
Hepatitis Australia looks forward to ongoing work with new Ministers
19 January 2017
Hepatitis Australia welcomes the appointment of Hon. Greg Hunt as Minister for Health and Minister for Sport.
“The Turnbull Government has shown a strong commitment to the elimination of hepatitis C through the billion dollar investment in new direct-acting antivirals and we look forward to working constructively with Minister Hunt to address the ongoing challenge of increasing treatment uptake,” said Kevin Marriott, Acting CEO at Hepatitis Australia.
“We would also like to recognise Hon. Sussan Ley on her efforts to achieve these ground-breaking PBS listings, which will be remembered as a watershed moment in the response to hepatitis C in Australia and a legacy of her tenure as Health Minister.”
Hepatitis Australia also congratulates Hon. Ken Wyatt on his appointment to Cabinet as Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health and looks forward to working with him to address hepatitis rates in the indigenous community.
New Hep C treatment on PBS welcome - but still more to do
29 April 2016
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.
Never a better time to treat hepatitis C, but thousands still unaware
1 March 2016
Experts are calling for the billion dollar investment by the Federal Government to subsidise new generation hepatitis C medicines to be supported by a concerted effort to improve public awareness of ground-breaking medicines and help people living with the virus reconnect with hepatitis C care.
Many people living with hepatitis C have been eagerly waiting for 1 March, which marks the start of the largest single investment in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme with subsidies granted to three new medicines*. However, experts are also concerned that many of the 230,5001 Australians living with hepatitis C are still “completely unaware of the new treatments or the enormous benefits they offer.”
Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said, “The Federal Government is to be congratulated on making breakthrough hepatitis C medicines available. Now the focus must be on increasing hepatitis C treatment rates to ensure this investment saves and transforms lives.
Christmas comes early for Australians living with hepatitis C.
20 December 2015
Thousands of Australians will rejoice at today’s announcement by Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley that a range of curative breakthrough hepatitis C medicines* will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme next year.
Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said that it was “simply terrific” that new ground-breaking medicines for hepatitis C would be subsidised on the PBS from 1 March 2016.
“Last week, we were incredibly disheartened that the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) announcement did not include funding for new hepatitis C medicines, but today we are overjoyed that the waiting is almost over,” Ms Tyrrell said.
“So many people have been anxiously waiting for this announcement. This is wonderful news and it is such a relief to have an end to the uncertainty,” she said.
Innovation, Prime Minister, Yes Please!
1 December 2015
Today should have been the day when Australia listed four of the most innovative medicines ever developed on the PBS for the benefit of Australians living with hepatitis C.
But despite PBAC recommendations that date back to March, these breakthrough antiviral therapies – Sovaldi, Harvoni, Daklinza and Viekira Pak – are missing from the 1 December PBS listings – in fact, a timeframe for their listing remains entirely unknown.
New medicines ‘pay for themselves’ but too many Aussies denied access – new analysis
24 November 2015
A major report into the enormous value that Australians receive from government subsidised medicines has highlighted the dire need to address spiraling rates of liver disease by adding breakthrough hepatitis C medicines to the PBS.
Hepatitis Australia today responded to research revealing that premature deaths in Australia from liver disease fell by a mere three per cent between 1998 and 2011, compared with a 42 per cent reduction in deaths from heart disease over the same period.
Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said this discrepancy was directly attributable to a lack of investment in the prevention of liver disease, which is often caused by untreated viral hepatitis.
Government’s proud record of subsidising medicines must apply to new hep C cures
30 September 2015
Twenty-seven leading medical associations and health advocacy groups have published an Open Letter to the Federal Health Minister urging the immediate inclusion of breakthrough hepatitis C cures on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said that pricing negotiations with pharmaceutical companies appear to have become protracted and that the time had come for the Minister to intervene and expedite the process.
Tragic cost of delaying access to new cures revealed
14 September 2015
Nearly 3,000 Australians with hepatitis C have progressed to severe liver disease in the last year, as thousands continue to wait for affordable access to curative medicines recommended for a government subsidy six months ago.
New surveillance data released by the Kirby Institute reveals the number of Australians living with hepatitis C-related severe liver disease more than doubled in ten years (from 18,582 to 44,730) – 2,800 in 2014 alone. The analysis shows that hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation in Australia and accounted for an estimated 690 deaths in 2014 – a 146 per cent increase in deaths over a ten year period.
Recommendations alone will not avert a liver disease epidemic
21 August 2015
The Federal Government needs to list new hepatitis C medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) without further delay, according to the peak body representing the interests of a quarter of a million Australians living with the liver-destroying virus.
Responding to the latest round of Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommendations, Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said a total of four* groundbreaking curative hepatitis C therapies have now received the green light for inclusion on the PBS but so far no listing date has been confirmed.
“It is a completely unacceptable situation. Recommendations alone will not cure anyone. It’s time to act on the advice of the experts and add these medicines to the PBS,” Ms Tyrrell said.
Time For Action to prevent lives lost to viral hepatitis
28 July 2015
An urgent call for government action to better equip half a million Australians living with viral hepatitis in combating life-threatening liver disease has been issued by peak health groups.
Calling for increased testing, improved access to liver check-ups and rapid access to new therapies, Hepatitis Australia and the leading state and territory hepatitis organisations warn that 1,000 Australian lives are lost each year due to hepatitis-related liver disease, and without urgent action, deaths from viral hepatitis will increase.
Speaking on World Hepatitis Day (28 July), Hepatitis Australia CEO, Helen Tyrrell said that Australia must never lose sight of the fact that hepatitis B and C are preventable, treatable liver health conditions.
Efforts to prevent serious liver disease boosted by easier access to hepatitis B medicines
26 June 2015
A major change in the way that hepatitis B medicines are prescribed and dispensed has been welcomed by the peak body representing the interests of more than 225,000 Australians living with the liver destroying virus.
From 1 July, people living with hepatitis B will be able to obtain their medicine from any pharmacy, regardless of whether the medicine has been prescribed in a hospital or community setting. This will eliminate the need for people to travel, often considerable distances, to hospital-based pharmacies.
Hepatitis C Inquiry Report welcomed; but urgent action now needed.
26 June 2015
The report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, The Silent Disease – Inquiry into Hepatitis C in Australia has been welcomed by the peak body representing the interests of more than 230,000 Australians living with hepatitis C.
Budget silence not a rejection of hepatitis C therapy funding.
13 May 2015
Tens of thousands of Australians awaiting access to ground-breaking hepatitis C therapy should not despair that a PBS listing was not announced as part of the Federal Budget, according to Hepatitis Australia.
“Many in the hepatitis community are concerned that the Health Minister did not include new hepatitis C therapies in the pre-Budget announcement of $1.3 billion to subsidise high-cost medicines,” said Helen Tyrrell, CEO of Hepatitis Australia.
“We are telling our members that while the PBAC has recommended a subsidy for three new hepatitis C medicines, final price agreements must be reached before the Health Minister can act,” she said.
PBAC recommendations pave way for watershed year in hepatitis C fight
Recommendations to include three ground breaking curative antiviral therapies on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is a watershed moment which will fundamentally change the way hepatitis C is treated in Australia.
Hepatitis Australia CEO, Helen Tyrrell welcomed the positive PBAC recommendations for sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (known as Harvoni overseas), and daclatasvir/ sofosbuvir (Daklinza/Sovaldi). Ms Tyrrell urged the Federal Government “to accept the experts’ advice and ensure a PBS listing is not delayed”.
Prison-based needle syringe program doomed without Government leadership
1 April 2015
The ACT Government is being urged to show political leadership and retain control over the introduction of a needle syringe program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre – ACT Prison in order to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses.
Hepatitis Australia and Hepatitis ACT today urged Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury not to allow the Community and Public Sector Union the right to veto the introduction of the planned needle syringe program, saying this would “spell the death knell for good public health policy”.
Liver cancer records worst 'death-to-incidence ratio' - new analysis
4 February 2015
Cancer of the liver looms as Australia’s greatest cancer challenge, with new analysis revealing that liver cancer has the highest ‘death-to-incidence ratio’ – indicating shorter average survival – of any cancer in Australia.
Latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data analysed by Hepatitis Australia reveals that the number of new cases of liver cancer each year (1,446) is matched by the number of lives lost to the disease (1,419) annually.1 This means that for every Australian diagnosed with liver cancer, another Australian loses their life.
No end in sight to ‘neglected epidemics’ of viral hepatitis
17 September 2014
Australia has failed to make meaningful progress in the prevention, diagnosis or treatment of hepatitis B and C, prompting calls for immediate government intervention to avert a ‘tidal-wave of life-threatening liver disease’. Read more - Download now (PDF 395 kb)
PBAC decisions – a mixed bag for Australians living with Hepatitis C
22 August 2014
Hepatitis Australia today welcomed the recommendation to add simeprevir (Olysio) to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the treatment of genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C.
Responding to the PBAC decision to reject an application to subsidise the antiviral medication sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), Ms Tyrrell said “it’s a sad day when access to game-changing therapy is denied. This is a bad outcome for people living with hepatitis C”. Read more - Download now. (PDF 245.43kb)
National hepatitis B and C strategies must be 'catalyst for investment'.
7 July 2014
Half a million Australians are set to benefit from new National Strategies on viral hepatitis launched by the Federal Health Minister today, but only if investment is made available to turn aspirational targets into a reality for people living with, or at risk of, viral hepatitis. Read more - Download Now (PDF 211kb)
Opportunity to turnaround Australia's low treatment rates 'must not be missed'.
7 July 2014
Nearly a quarter of a million Australia's with chronic hepatitis C may soon have a new treatment option following the approval of Sovaldi® (sofosbuvir) by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Read more - Download Now (PDF 208kb)
Experts caution against post-festive season detox dieting.
7 January 2014
With the festive season coming to a close, many Australians have been left to assess the damage inflicted by several weeks of voracious eating, drinking and merriment. Download Now (PDF 176kb)
Schoolies warned over unsterile DIY tattooing and piercings.
14 November 2013
School leavers run the risk of returning from Schoolies Week with viral hepatitis if they expose themselves to unsterile tattooing and body piercing equipment that carries the blood-borne virus. Download Now (PDF 168kb)
Viral hepatitis fuels nation’s fast growing cancer killer: new research.
13 November 2013
Viral hepatitis is fuelling alarming rates of serious liver disease, with hepatitis B and hepatitis C now responsible for the majority of deaths from liver cancer and cirrhosis of the liver in Australia, according to new research. Download Now (PDF 201kb)
Funding boost for viral hepatitis welcomed.
12 August 2013
Hepatitis Australia has welcomed Federal Government funding of $5.5 million over four years to improve diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis B, and a similar amount to enhance access to Needle and Syringe Programs in rural and regional areas to prevent blood-borne viruses including hepatitis C. Download Now (PDF 57kb)
Page updated: 29 January 2014