15 August 2018

PBS therapies drive decline in hepatitis C deaths

Communicable Disease Patients

Australia’s approach to treating hepatitis C appears to have been vindicated following the release of data showing a 20% fall in the number of deaths attributable to the condition.

The decline, based on New South Wales data from more than 100,000 people with a hepatitis C diagnosis, is the first large scale evidence of the impact of new hepatitis C treatments on liver-related mortality.

“Since 2016, around 60,000 Australians have been treated with the highly curative therapies, and now for the first time, we are seeing fewer people dying of hepatitis C-related causes,” Professor Greg Dore, head of the Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program at the Kirby Institute said.

Australia is one of the only countries in the world to offer hepatitis C treatments at low cost and without restrictions based on a patient’s stage of liver disease or injecting drug use behaviours, and where general practitioners can also prescribe the drugs.

The data also showed a sharp fall in the prevalence of hepatitis C among people currently injecting drugs.

While the declines were welcomed, experts were quick to point out that there was still an estimated 170,000 Australians with chronic hepatitis C.

“We now need to expand greatly our efforts to get many more people living with hepatitis C into treatment and cure,” Hepatitis NSW chief executive Stuart Loveday said.

Mr Loveday there was still a need to raise awareness levels and mobilise those people with hepatitis C who were hard-to-reach and hard-to-engage to seek access to the new treatments.