Slowing HCV uptake a concern

Source: PharmaDispatch  Author:  Paul Cross

Hepatitis Australia is developing a community-level campaign designed to ensure uptake of the direct acting antivirals for hepatitis C remains strong.

Hepatitis Australia’s Acting CEO Kevin Marriott told PharmaDispatch the organisation is concerned over the recent fall in uptake and it is now working to ensure as many people as possible access treatment.

According to the most recent statistics from the Department of Human Services, monthly uptake of the therapies first listed on the PBS in March 2016 has more than halved since the peak last year.

Government is still recording monthly PBS benefits of around $140 million but the peak was over $340 million in June 2016.

Over 50,000 of the more than 250,000 living with hepatitis C have accessed treatment with the new therapies, led by Gilead's HARVONI, with Mr Marriott saying the focus must now shift to regaining "momentum".

"The initial 'waterfall' was based on the large number of 'warehoused' patients, including those aware the new treatments were coming," he said. "Without renewed momentum we're going to see this trickle effect so we're now focussed on trying to get as many people as possible into treatment."

Mr Marriott said further increasing the number of GPs prescribing the new therapies was essential. "GPs are really important. They need to be aware treatment is about curing patients but also shrinking the viral pool, which will reduce the number of new infections."

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee's decision to grant GPs the right to prescribe was a world-first and considered vital to ensuring uptake was sufficient to maximise the opportunity for Australia to eradicate hepatitis C.

The number of GPs prescribing the therapies is rising but remains too low to achieve eradication. 

Hepatitis Australia has received funding from the federal government to conduct a community level campaign targeting sub-populations of Australians living with hepatitis C.

The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine, has also been funded to run a GP education campaign.

According to Mr Marriott, pilots of Hepatitis Australia's 'test, cure, live' initiative are in the process of being implemented. "It will focus on the non-injecting community, who may have in the past but not now, and focus on raising awareness of the fact there is now a cure. Many people have heard the 'horror stories' involved with the old interferon-based treatments. They may not be aware of the new treatments and they haven't necessarily prioritised their HCV."

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