Cancer Council welcomes easier meds access for hepatitis, HIV patients

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Patients with chronic hepatitis B and HIV will be able to access their medicines more easily under changes welcomed by Cancer Council Victoria.

The federal government changes will allow medicines for chronic hepatitis B and HIV to be dispensed from any pharmacy and also allow authorised community-based prescribers to prescribe hepatitis B treatment, improving access for patients from 1 July 2015.

Previously prescribers and patients were required to be associated with a hospital to be able to access the medicines.

Approximately 220,000 Australians are living with chronic hepatitis B. Not everyone requires medication for the condition, yet of those who do, a small percentage are currently accessing it.

Chris Enright, manager for priority populations at Cancer Council Victoria, says while these changes will greatly reduce previous barriers to chronic hepatitis B treatment, GPs need further support to provide quality care. Better GP education has a flow-on effect to people living with chronic hepatitis B.

“We look forward to supporting the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to implement a comprehensive Victorian hepatitis action plan to deliver the appropriate support and care under these new guidelines,” she says.

“A state strategy will aid the Victorian government, primary health sector and communities to work together to understand and respond to these changes and increase treatment rates.”

Networking Health Victoria’s CEO, John Rasa says he strongly backs efforts to increase treatment options for people with hepatitis B and supports Cancer Council Victoria’s call for a state action plan to ensure a successful hepatitis B community prescribing program.

Left untreated, one in four people with chronic hepatitis B will die from serious liver disease and/or liver cancer.

Liver cancer is the fastest-growing cancer killer in Australia and one of the most deadly with most people only surviving less than a year after diagnosis.

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