The national organisation representing those in the community who are most affected by chronic hepatitis C, the Australian Injecting & Illicit Drug Users League (AIVL) welcomes the news today that the Australian Government has announced the listing of two new important medications for the treatment of hepatitis C. ”People with a history of injecting drug use represent over 80 per cent of those with chronic hepatitis C infection in Australia and we are very pleased to hear that members of our community will soon have affordable access to these new life-saving medications” declared Annie Madden, AIVL Executive Officer.
“Today’s announcement by the Federal Minister for Health is such great news for people who desperately need access to these new medications. Significant numbers of people with genotype 1 hepatitis C infection have been being discouraged from commencing hepatitis C treatment due to the promise of the availability of these new direct acting antivirals (DAAs) with significantly higher efficacy rates. However, the timing of access to treatment is so critical in relation to hepatitis C that it is very good news indeed that these medications will now be made available to those who need them before they could become ineligible for treatment due to the stage of their liver disease progression” Ms Madden added.
In Australia, more than 50 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis C have genotype 1 so this decision has the potential to affect a significant number of Australians. Over the past 12 months, AIVL and other organisations working in the area of hepatitis C have been receiving an increasing number of requests from individuals living with genotype 1 HCV who need urgent access to treatment.
Hepatitis C is a major and growing public health issue in Australia with more than 220,000 people already living with chronic HCV. It is very positive to see Australia falling into line with at least 25 other countries that have also approved these new DAAs for the treatment of hepatitis C in recent times. Australia has traditionally been a world leader since the early 1990s in relation to our national response to hepatitis C but ongoing delays to the approval of these drugs was bringing this into question. Today’s announcement will go some way to restoring Australia’s world-leading reputation in the treatment and management of chronic hepatitis C and will also provide a realistic prospect of clearing the virus for many thousands of people.
“Many people with chronic hepatitis C and a history of injecting drug use have now been infected for 20 years or more. The natural history and long progressing nature of hepatitis C infection means that we are already witnessing a substantial burden of liver disease that will only grow over time if we do not act now to increase the effectiveness and importantly, the attractiveness of treatment. Today’s outcome and the decision by the Government to make these new DAAs available under the PBS will be a critical step in changing the current and longer term outlook in relation to hepatitis C in Australia” concluded Ms Madden.