North Western Melbourne PHN (NWMPHN) is supporting GPs to play a critical role in tackling hepatitis C in Australia, with high demand from patients expected for new hepatitis C drugs being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from 1 March 2016.
The new treatments – sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni), daclatasvir (Daklinza) and ribavirin (Ibavyr) – can successfully cure hepatitis C in over 90 per cent of cases. Treatment can take as little as 8-12 weeks, without many of the serious side-effects associated with older, interferon based treatments.
North Western Melbourne PHN CEO Adjunct Associate Professor Christopher Carter said having safer, quicker and vastly more effective treatments available is the key to boosting treatment rates. Currently only one per cent of people with hepatitis C are receiving treatment each year.
“There are around 230,000 people living with hepatitis C in Australia and every one of them who is not receiving treatment is at risk of serious liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer,” A/Prof Carter said. “The only thing holding these treatments back has been the high cost, so having them listed on the PBS is a real game changer that will save lives.”
The treatments are to be made available to all people living with hepatitis C and GPs will be able to prescribe the drugs in consultation with a specialist physician.
NWMPHN has three educational events planned for GPs to provide an update on the new drugs and how to prescribe them in consultation with local specialists. GP assessment, management and referral website HealthPathways Melbourne will also be updated with a range of new hepatitis C clinical pathways.
“With the right support for GPs to get these drugs out to patients, and awareness among people living with hepatitis C about their availability, we can go a long way towards eradicating this deadly disease once and for all.”
Practitioners can find out more via the following resources: