Australia on target to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2026

The conclusion of a study from the university coincided with the addition of a powerful new anti-viral treatment to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

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The study estimated that up to 33,000 people accessed subsidised treatment in 2016, exceeding targets set by the Australian National Hepatitis C Strategy.

And it said this figure represented one of the most rapid uptakes of treatment worldwide.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that attacks the liver.

If left untreated it can lead to cancer, organ failure and death.

Helen Tyrrell from Hepatitis Australia agreed that government efforts have put the country in a position to be rid of the virus by 2026.

“We really think that Australia could be the first country in the world to actually eliminate hepatitis as a public health issue,” she told SBS

“Treatment now is really easy. It’s 90 to 95 per cent cure rate with very short treatment duration and much fewer side effects than in previous years.”

“I would really encourage anyone with #hepatitisC to come forward and just talk to their doctor about the new hepatitis C therapies” pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/6y389zNCwX

— MSD Australia (@MSD_Aus) February 21, 2017

Ms Tyrrell said the biggest challenge was to ensure anyone potentially infected with hepatitis C was diagnosed and treated, including those living in regional and remote Indigenous communities.

Sydneysider Emmanuel Kostoglou was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1990.

He was 22-years-old at the time and using drugs.

Despite turning his life around, he felt the stigma of the disease followed him for decades.

“People treat you like a leper basically, like they could catch it, even just by touching you or something, so I did notice people would keep their distance sometimes,” he said.

Mr Kostoglou was cured of hepatitis C last year, after being treated in a clinical trial of the direct-acting anti-viral medicine, Zepatier.

“It’s a big relief really not have to worry about that as I get older,” he said.

“I can continue on living a normal life now.”

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Zepatier is available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme – the federal government subsidy substantially lowering the cost for patients.

Professor Gregory Dore is the head of the Kirby Institute’s Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program.

He said the addition of Zepatier to the PBS meant the treatment was more widely available.

“That means instead of only targeting these therapies to people with more advanced liver disease, they’re able to provide access across the disease spectrum,” he said.

“We have no restrictions based on ongoing drug or alcohol use, which is often the case in many settings.”