Federal Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, has announced Australians with Hepatitis C would now pay as little as $6.20 a prescription if they are a concession card holder, or $38.30 a prescription as a general patient, for four different cures listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – saving patients as much as $100,000 for treatment.
When taken as prescribed, the four medicines had a cure rate of over 90 per cent and worked faster and with fewer side effects than anything else previously subsidised on the PBS.
“Australia is one of the first countries in the world to publicly subsidise these cures for every one of our quarter-of-a-million Hep C suffers, no matter what their condition or how they contracted it,” Ms Ley said.
Hepatitis C is an infectious blood borne virus that attacks the liver, causing its inflammation and may lead to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, liver cancer and in some cases, death. It has six different genotypes.
Ms Ley said there were about 700 deaths attributable to chronic Hep C infection each year, with thousands more suffering a variety of serious liver diseases and conditions.
Deaths from primary liver cancer, for which untreated Hep C is a major driver, are rising faster than for any other cancer, with Ms Ley describing the PBS listings as a “game changer”.
“Essentially one in every 100 Australians has Hep C, with another 10,000 people diagnosed every year, and they come from all walks of life,” Ms Ley said.
“With this announcement there is great hope we can not only halt the spread of this deadly infectious virus, but eliminate it altogether in time. It’s therefore important we tackle this disease head on, and that includes providing these medicines to all Australians, particularly vulnerable populations where rates of infection are high.”
The listing of multiple drug combinations from 1 March 2016, will ensure cures for all types of Hep C are made available to the entire patient population through the PBS.
The medicines are: Sofosbuvir with ledipasvir (Harvoni); Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi); Daclatasvir (Daklinza); and Ribavirin (Ibavyr). For more information about these medications see the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration website www.tga.gov.au
Ms Ley said in the majority of cases the medicines would be taken orally, with treatment duration as short as 8 to 12 weeks. She advised people with Hep C to consult their doctor about the best course of treatment for them.