PBS listing of hep C drugs leads to 10x uptake

More Australians were treated for hep C since DAAs were added to the PBS than in the past decade, according to new report

Since direct-acting antiviral (DAA) hepatitis C treatments were PBS listed on 1 March 2016, more than 30,000 Australians have been treated for their hepatitis C virus infection.

This is an increase on the 2,000-3,000 people treated annually prior to the drugs’ listing, according to a report by the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales.

 “Australia has achieved one of the most rapid uptakes of treatment worldwide and has a unique opportunity to eliminate a major infectious disease, potentially the first opportunity through treatment intervention,” says Professor Greg Dore, Head of the Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program at the Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society.

“Providing Australians living with hep C ongoing access to effective, well-tolerated treatment will help curb transmission of the virus, reduce rates of liver disease, and eliminate hep C as a major public health issue within a decade.”

The report also reveals that an increasing proportion of patients are being treated by and receiving prescriptions from GPs.

“We’re really pleased to see increasing numbers [of] GPs prescribing hep C treatments,” says Professor Dore. “This means greater access to treatment and care for people living with hep C.”

He points out that hepatitis C is particularly problematic in marginalised and stigmatised populations, including Indigenous Australia, those in prison and people who inject drugs.

“Efforts must also be directed towards strategies that prevent infections from occurring, such as providing greater access to clean needles and syringes and drug dependency treatment for people who inject drugs,” says Professor Dore.

Key facts:

  • An estimated 25,890 individuals initiated direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection during March to September 2016.
  • The total number of people who initiated treatment between March and December 2016 is estimated to be between 30,390 and 33,390 (13-15% of individuals living with chronic HCV).
  • Of those who initiated treatment between March and September, 66% were men, 34% were women and 40% were ≤50 years old.
  • The proportion of individuals ≤50 years old increased from 28% in March to 54% in September.
  • The most commonly prescribed regimen was sofosbuvir/ledipasvir for 57% of people, followed by sofosbuvir+daclatasvir for 38%.
  • Of individuals initiated on sofosbuvir+other agents, 99% were prescribed a 12-week course, and 1% a 24-week course.
  • Overall 65% of individuals received prescriptions from specialists.
  • The proportion of those receiving prescriptions from GPs increased from 4% in March to 19% in September.
  • 90% of newly acquired hep C cases are among people who inject drugs.

Source: Monitoring hepatitis C treatment uptake in Australia – Initiations of new treatment for chronic hepatitis C during March to September 2016, The Kirby Institute for infection and immunity in society

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