Hepatitis NSW has welcomed changes to the PBS that improve access to direct acting ant-viral (DAA) medications that cure hepatitis C. The changes, that came into effect from 1 April, include:
· allowing young people, 12 to 17-year-old, living with hepatitis C access to DAAs funded by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme;
· allowing nurse practitioners to be included as authorised prescribers on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS); and,
· removing the requirement for healthcare professionals to provide genotype to the PBS when applying for an authority script.
Since the DAAs became available in Australia in 2016, more than 70,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C.
Hepatitis NSW CEO, Mr Steven Drew said the medications have a cure rate of 95 percent. “They can be prescribed by any general practitioner, as well as authorised nurse practitioners now. Cure is usually achieved within 8 or 12 weeks, with minimal or no side-effects.”
“These oral pill treatments have offered a revolutionary opportunity,” said Mr Drew. “It is important that people see their health professional to be treated and get their best life back. While hepatitis C initially has almost no symptoms, if left untreated it can ultimately result in significant liver disease.”
Mr Drew said testing for hepatitis C was simple and easy as getting your GP to do a blood test.
“We’ve all led varied and adventurous lives filled with new experiences. It may be that some, or one, of those experiences exposed us to the chance of hepatitis C transmission. The only way to know for sure is to see your GP to get your bloods done and make sure it includes a test for hep C.”
Once you know you have hep C, you should seriously consider commencing treatment and get cured,” said Mr Drew.
“It is not often we get the chance to eliminate a chronic disease, but we have that opportunity now with hepatitis C,” said Mr Drew. “I encourage anyone who hasn’t yet sought out this medication to explore their treatment options,” adding that Hepatitis NSW could provide information and support to anyone living with, or affected by hepatitis including family and friends of people living with hepatitis C.
“Despite the broader issues currently in the community around the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), now is still a good time to commence treatment and cure for hepatitis C,” said Mr Drew. “Please don’t let it put you off.”