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Thousands missing out on hep C cures: Australians urged to ‘Just Ask’

The number of Australians receiving breakthrough antiviral therapy to cure hepatitis C has sharply declined, prompting urgent appeals for more Australians living with the virus to come forward to be cured.

A new analysis released by Hepatitis Australia, ahead of World Hepatitis Day on 28 July 2018, identifies three phases to the uptake of hepatitis C cures since they received government funding in March 2016:

  • High uptake: average of 3,400 initiations per month from March to November 2016
  • Stable Uptake: average of 1,800 initiations per month from December 2016 to November 2017
  • Low Uptake: average of 1,300 initiations per month since December 2017.

Around 60,000 Australians have been cured of hepatitis C since these medicines were first added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in 2016, however it is estimated that more than 170,000 Australians are still living with the virus.

Without urgent action to identify people with hepatitis C, they remain at increased risk of serious liver disease, including liver failure, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and possible death.

Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell said that the alarming drop in treatment “needs to be urgently addressed to prevent more people with the virus progressing to serious liver disease”.

“The initial record numbers of Australians being cured of hepatitis C was fantastic news, but the majority of people with the virus are still missing out on life-saving treatment,” she said.

In contrast to the old interferon therapies, the new breakthrough hepatitis C cures consist of daily tablets taken for around 8-12 weeks, with few side-effects, which cure 95 per cent of people.

Source: Hepatitis Australia