Call for hep C cures to be affordable

Source: The Australian 

LIFE-SAVING hepatitis C medicines should immediately be made affordable for Australians, say health campaigners.

TWENTY-SEVEN organisations are urging Health Minister Sussan Ley to intervene in price negotiations so breakthrough cures are included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme before the end of 2015.

"These new treatments cure hepatitis C and represent a lifeline for many people," they said in a letter to Ms Ley.

"Yet despite being recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee six months ago, these medicines are still awaiting consideration by the Federal Cabinet."

Releasing the letter on Wednesday, Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said that every month about 250 people with the disease develop serious and potentially life-threatening liver disease.

New generation hepatitis C medicines offer a cure to nine out of ten people thereby preventing escalating rates of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.

In the letter, the organisations say only one per cent of the 230,500 Australians living with the disease are treated each year.

"Sadly, Australia can no longer regard itself as the lucky country; not when people with hepatitis C are being cured around the globe from the United States and Great Britain to Egypt and India.

"Increasingly, desperate Australians are being forced to travel overseas or take the risky course of importing medicines because these new therapies remain unaffordable in Australia."

Signatories include Australian Federation of AIDS organisations, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases.