Government intervenes to keep hepatitis C elimination on track

An alarming drop in the number of Australians accessing government-funded cures for hepatitis C – which jeopardises efforts to eliminate the virus in Australia by 2030 – has prompted the Federal Government to announce a million dollar investment in community awareness campaigns. 

Welcoming the Federal Government's announcement, Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said the decline in people accessing the cures had been evident since last year and the organisation is “pleased that our call for the government to support greater public awareness has been answered”.

“It is a tragedy that hundreds of thousands of Australians are missing out on life-saving therapies which can cure hepatitis C in a matter of weeks, with few side effects, when these cures are readily available with a prescription from GPs," Ms Tyrrell said.

"The new investment will support the roll-out of a hepatitis C Test, Cure, Live campaign to  encourage people with risk factors to be tested or to come forward, if they know they are living with the virus, rather than delay commencing treatment.

“People may be feeling well even if their liver is progressively being damaged. Early treatment supports people to live longer, healthier lives, free from the worry of hepatitis C,” she added.

It is estimated that around 60,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C since new generation anti-virals were added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2016, but more than 170,000 Australians are still living with the virus. Fewer people accessed new cures in recent months, suggesting that many people remain unaware of the benefits of new cures. 

Without timely treatment, people with hepatitis C are at increased risk of developing serious liver disease, including liver cirrhosis (severe scarring), liver failure and liver cancer, which is now the fastest increasing cancer in Australia. 

Hepatitis Australia has also welcomed news that the Federal Government will, from 1st August 2018, subsidise another medicine to cure hepatitis C - glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (Maviret®) a short eight-week treatment suitable for adults with any hepatitis C genotype, who haven’t previously been treated and haven’t developed liver cirrhosis.

"We welcome the Government’s commitment to making vital medicines available for people with hepatitis C. As always, any cure is only useful when it actually reaches the people who need it. 

“We urge people to seek treatment now to avoid complications. We also encourage GPs to actively engage in providing hepatitis C testing and treatment to their patients and, by doing so, contribute to the goal of eliminating hepatitis C in Australia by 2030," Ms Tyrrell concluded.

If you are living with hepatitis C or would like more information you can call the National Infoline 1800 437 222