Australia is on track to eliminate hepatitis C in ten years if record numbers of people living with the virus continue to seek and receive breakthrough antiviral treatment, according to a new analysis.
Data from the Kirby Institute at UNSW reveals that since new generation hepatitis C cures were made available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schemes five months ago, 22,470 Australians have already commenced treatment – a massive increase on the 2,000 to 3,000 people with hepatitis C treated annually prior to the listing.
Professor Greg Dore from the Kirby Institute said Australia is leading the world in the treatment of hepatitis C.
This is the most rapid uptake of new treatments seen anywhere in the world, thanks to the unique approach Australia has taken in making these medicines available without restriction.
This is the most rapid uptake of new treatments seen anywhere in the world, thanks to the unique approach Australia has taken in making these medicines available without restriction,” Professor Dore said.
“This represents a huge leap forward in public health. To put this into perspective, we are on track to cure more people with hepatitis C this year than in the past twenty years of interferon-therapy.”
Hepatitis Australia CEO, Helen Tyrrell said that the wave of people who had been treated was “frankly phenomenal” but that Australia must keep up the momentum in order to make the elimination of hepatitis C a reality within a decade in Australia.
“Governments, along with the health and community sector, should be applauded for the record number of people with hepatitis C coming forward for treatment so far, but of course these efforts must be sustained over many years to reach everyone who would benefit,” Ms Tyrrell said.
“The message for the 230,000 Australians living with hepatitis C is: ask your doctor about new hepatitis C cures. Don’t miss out. You can be cured in as little as 12 weeks and with far fewer side-effects than previous treatments,” Ms Tyrrell urged.
The Department of Health estimated that 62,000 people would be treated with the new antivirals in five years, however if high treatment rates continue, experts believe this goal could be reached by the end of 2017. Importantly, there is no limit on the number of patients that can be treated.
Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Read Professor Greg Dore's opinion piece on eliminating hepatitis C in Australia within 10 years.