NSW Health is reminding communities to take advantage of affordable treatments for hepatitis C which have high cure rates and are readily available at Aboriginal Medical Services, public health clinics and GPs.
The reminder follows a report released by the Kirby Institute today which shows hepatitis C diagnoses rates have remained stable in Australia over the last five years, however amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population there has been an increase of 43 per cent in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Western Australia.
NSW Health Acting Director of Population Health Programs, Jo Holden, said around 80 percent of people living with hepatitis C develop chronic infections that could result in liver failure or cancer if left untreated.
“Hepatitis C is one of the leading reasons for liver transplant in Australia,” Ms Holden said.
“Anti-viral treatments for hepatitis C have become affordable since being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in March this year and have cure rates of more than 90 per cent for most genotypes.
“It’s important that people living with hepatitis C access antiviral medication to treat their condition and this also has the added benefit of reducing the transmission of hepatitis C in the community.
“The improved, anti-viral medications require only 12 weeks of treatment in most cases, have minimal side effects and are far less invasive as assessment for treatment does not require a liver biopsy. Doctors at local public health clinics, AMS’s and GP surgeries can provide access to the new treatment via prescription or referral for people living with hepatitis C.”
Ms Holden said previous medications had severe side effects making it difficult for patients to continue with the treatment, which lasted for 48 weeks.
Since the new treatments had become available, it is estimated that over 7,400 people living with chronic hepatitis C had commenced treatment in NSW.
“This is great news and we need to continue to focus our efforts so that as many people as possible are able to access these treatments,” she said.
We are looking to a future where the elimination of hepatitis C as a public health concern can become a reality.”
For more information about hepatitis C, see the NSW Health fact sheet at: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/hepatitis_c.aspx;
visit https://www.hep.org.au/; or
contact the Hepatitis NSW Infoline at : 1800 803 990.
For more information on the NSW Health Hepatitis B and C Strategies 2014-2010, visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/hepatitis.