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Hepatitis C being eliminated in Australia within a decade

Photo: Hundreds of Aussies cured of hepatitis C
Doctors say a rapid uptake of a new antiviral drug treatment could result in hepatitis C being eliminated in Australia within a decade.

Australia is on track to eliminate hepatitis C in 10 years due to the rapid uptake of a breakthrough treatment, say doctors.

New data shows more than 20,000 Australians have commenced the new treatment, that can cure a person of hepatitis C in 12 weeks, since the antiviral drugs were listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in March.

People with the blood-borne virus take a three-month course of the antiviral pills - which have a 90 per cent cure rate.

The PBS listing of the new-generation drugs, Harvoni, Sovaldi Daklinza and Ribavirin, saw their cost fall from around $100,000 to just $6 for concessional patients and $38 for general patients.
This was made possible after the federal government invested $1 billion in 2015 to subsidise the life-saving drugs following much lobbying by health groups.

Professor Greg Dore from the Kirby Institute at UNSW says the rapid uptake of the new drug treatment represents a huge leap forward in public health.

"To put this into perspective, we are on track to cure more people with hepatitis C this year than in the past 20 years of interferon-therapy," he said.

Hepatitis Australia has described the outcome as "phenomenal" but warns that the momentum must be kept up in order to make the elimination of hepatitis C a reality.

"Governments, along with the health and community sector, should be applauded for the record number of people with hepatitis C coming forward for treatment so far, but of course these efforts must be sustained over many years to reach everyone who would benefit," Hepatitis Australia CEO, Helen Tyrrell said.

The estimated 230,000 Australians living with hepatitis C are encouraged to contact their doctor about the new drug treatment.

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