No 192 December 2015

Hep C News

Time is running out for many people with hepatitis C and bleeding disorders. On 30 September 2015, Haemophilia Foundation Australia joined Hepatitis Australia and 25 other health organisations in an open letter to Australian Health Minister Sussan Ley urging action to make new curative treatments available to Australians without delay.

The letter acknowledged Minister Ley’s commitment to improving the lives of Australians and urged her to intervene to bring the Government and pharmaceutical companies together to “expedite price negotiations and confirm the addition of new breakthrough hepatitis C medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme without delay.”

Four new hepatitis C treatment combinations have now been recommended for listing on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) and yet, after nine months or more, none are available yet on the PBS. These treatments are already available in many other countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Egypt, and India.

"Access to these treatments is absolutely critical for Australians with hepatitis C. My community members with bleeding disorders and hepatitis C have been waiting for these treatments for too long. Every delay puts their health and their lives more at risk," said Gavin Finkelstein, HFA President. “Government funding is needed urgently to list these medicines on the PBS. These treatments can cure hepatitis C – and if they are not on the PBS, these treatments are just not affordable for most Australians with hepatitis C.”

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE

Hepatitis Australia received a response from the Minister which stated that:

  • ‘A medicine cannot be listed on the PBS without a recommendation from the PBAC and neither the Government nor my Department interferes in the independent process of the PBAC.’
  • ‘My Department is progressing the listing of these medicines as swiftly as possible in line with PBAC recommendations. The listing date will depend on the successful negotiations with the sponsors of these medicines.’

Bearing in mind the PBAC approval and PBS listing processes, Hepatitis Australia does not expect the new treatments to be listed on the PBS before February 2016.

You can read the full open letter to the Minister and the update on the government response on the Hepatitis Australia website.

HFA will continue to advocate for these medicines to be made available as soon as possible

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU HAVE HEPATITIS C?

In the meantime - if you have hepatitis C and a bleeding disorder, remember that you would need to have your liver health assessed before you could be considered for treatment:

  • Make sure you have your liver health checked regularly
  • If you don’t know where to start, ask your Haemophilia Centre for a referral
  • Stay in touch with your hepatitis clinic about what’s new
  • Don’t forget to go to your appointment with the hepatitis clinic after your liver health check, even if the fibroscan shows your liver health is stable at the moment
  • And for comprehensive care, let your Haemophilia Centre know about your liver test results or how your treatment is going to make sure they stay in the loop.
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