The government’s announcement for the inclusion of two new drugs to treat the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme has been welcomed by Professor Geoff McCaughan, Head of Liver Injury and Cancer at the Centenary Institute and Head of Liver Transplant Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
The subsidy essentially means these very expensive drugs have become more accessible for those undergoing treatment and marks the first breakthrough in a decade for treatment of this chronic condition.
Professor McCaughan said that “this is a giant leap forward in reducing the need for liver transplants in Australia and it’s a great day for patients who suffer from chronic hepatitis C in this country.
“The introduction of these drugs means that we can cure up to 75 per cent of patients with genotype 1 hepatitis C – the most common strain of the disease. Treatment time will also be cut in half for many patients, from one year to six months.”
The two drugs, boceprevir and telaprevir, are the first HCV therapies to incorporate direct antiviral agents (DAAs), compounds which stop the proliferation of viruses. They open up the possibility of clearing HCV infection entirely in a significant number of cases, thus preventing them from becoming serious enough to demand transplantation.
The $220m the government has set aside for the next 5 years will have long term benefits for those suffering from hepatitis C and reduces the longer term effects of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for liver transplants. There are currently over 200,000 Australians infected with HCV.