The number of people receiving antiviral therapy to cure hepatitis C has sharply declined, prompting urgent appeals for more people living with the virus to come forward to be cured.
A new analysis released by Hepatitis Australia, ahead of World Hepatitis Day tomorrow (July 28), identifies three phases for the average uptake of hepatitis C cures since it received government funding in March 2016:
- 3,400 initiations per month from March to November 2016.
- 1,800 initiations per month from December 2016 to November 2017.
- 1,300 initiations per month since December 2017.
About 60,000 people have been cured of hepatitis C since these medicines were first added to the PBS in 2016, but it is estimated that more than 170,000 Australians are still living with the virus.
Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell says 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 added.
In contrast to the previously used interferon therapies, the new breakthrough hepatitis C cures consist of daily tablets taken for about eight to 12 weeks, with few side-effects, and which cure 95 per cent of patients.
New hepatitis C cures can now be prescribed by GPs, avoiding long waits at liver clinics. However, while GP prescribing is said to be working well in some pockets of the country, Hepatitis Australia says this needs to increase substantially.
As part of World Hepatitis Day, the organisation is releasing a video with the campaign theme of ‘Why miss out? Just ask’. Supporters are encouraged to share the video with the hashtags #whymissout and #HepFreeAus.
Hepatitis Australia has also launched the [itals>Test, Cure, Live <itals] campaign to prompt people with hepatitis C to seek treatment. The campaign includes a podcast series #MakingHepatitisCHistory, which features people sharing their stories of being cured of hepatitis C.
www.worldhepatitisday.org.au, national infoline: 1800 437 222.