Quarter of a million in liver danger zone!

Half of all Australians with hepatitis B and C are living in a liver "danger zone" and face an increased threat of serious liver disease. 

Details of research released on Monday shows there are 250,000 Australians with untreated hepatitis B or C over the age of 40 who have reached the critical age dubbed the liver "danger zone", where liver scarring accelerates and the risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure dramatically increase. 

Figures from Hepatitis ACT estimate there are 3600 people in the territory with hepatitis B and about 4000 people with hepatitis C. 

The report card from Hepatitis Australia and a number of other organisations has been released to coincide with World Hepatitis Day. 

It indicates as many as one in two people with hepatitis B and one in six with hepatitis C are undiagnosed. 

Hepatitis ACT executive officer John Didlick says the report card shows the importance of ensuring all Australians with chronic hepatitis B and C are diagnosed and have regular liver checks. 

It is estimated only 1 per cent of Australians with hepatitis C are receiving treatment and the report card warns that, without significant improvement in treatment rates, the country faces escalating rates of liver disease, including a 230 per cent rise in liver-related deaths, a 245 per cent increase in liver cancer and a 180 per cent increase in cirrhosis by 2030. 

The research has renewed calls for the Federal Government to list two new medications to treat chronic hepatitis C on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 

"Those medicines have been shown to be more effective, to have a shorter treatment duration and with significantly fewer side effects and are in use in other parts of the world and have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia," Mr Didlick said. 

"Hepatitis organisations and thousands of people in the affected community are calling on the federal government to improve access to those new drugs without delay and without restriction." 

It is a call backed by people affected by hepatitis such as a Tuggeranong woman who was diagnosed 22 years ago. 

"I had a period in my youth where I was quite wild," said the 43-year-old, who wished to remain anonymous. "I contracted it through [intravenous] drug use and that was even being quite careful at the time. The first I knew of it was my eyes turned yellow, I got jaundice.

"I didn't really think about it much until I got clean a couple of years later and I started to get interested in my health. I'm really lucky because I have a fantastic GP and she makes sure my hep C is monitored regularly."

The woman hopes the government approves the PBS listing of the two new treatments. She says friends who had participated in trials of the two new drugs had told her they had given them a "new lease on life".

The report also warned that, without access to regular liver health checks, more people, particularly those already in the liver danger zone, faced the prospect of serious complications and early death. 

Hepatitis B is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact or unprotected sexual contact while hepatitis C is transmitted only through blood-to-blood contact. 

Mr Didlick said hepatitis was largely a silent disease, meaning symptoms alone were not enough to alert people to a need for treatment. 

"The important point from that is that regular liver checks must become a standard part of healthcare for all people living with chronic viral hepatitis and that's particularly important for people who have entered the liver danger zone," he said. 

The report card will be launched at a World Hepatitis Day event at Reid CIT on Monday.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/quarter-of-a-million-in-liver-danger-zone-20140727-zwq1j.html#ixzz38hs1lVS5