As of the 1st of March the new hepatitis C medicines are available to the community through the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS). This is welcome news for people living with and affected by hepatitis C, and the general community. Congratulations to Health Minister Hon. Sussan Ley for achieving this outcome. The availability of new hepatitis C medicines marks the beginning of a new era for hepatitis C treatment, and over time will provide the potential to eliminate the virus.
The benefits of the new medicines include:
- a cure for 90% of people who undertake treatment
- taken as tablets they have very few side effects
- treatment regimes of between 8, 12 or 24 weeks for most people and
- peg-interferon will not be required as part of the regimen.
The particular combination of medicines prescribed will depend on a number of individual clinical factors. Interferon-free treatment options are available for all major genotypes in Australia. Specialists are able to prescribe the new medicines, as are GPs in consultation with a specified specialist, which can be done by phone, mail, email or video conferencing. It is usually a state and territory responsibility to fund the health care of people in custodial settings, however the Australian Government has agreed to fund the treatment for prisoners who are a priority population for hepatitis C.
The new medicines are available in the community to all adults (>18) who hold a Medicare card and who have chronic hepatitis C regardless of their stage of disease. There are no limitations on who is eligible for the treatments, including people who inject drugs as they are also a priority population for hepatitis C treatment. In the community people will only be charged the usual co-payment price paid for a prescription which is $38.30 for general patients and $6.20 for concessional patients.
HepatitisWA encourages people who wish to uptake the new hepatitis C treatments to discuss the matter with their doctor. Alternatively contact HepatitisWA on (08) 9328 8538.