Australians with hepatitis C gain easier access to treatments
Australians with hepatitis C will no longer be required to have a liver biopsy to gain access to subsidised treatments. The Australian Government is hoping this will make it easier for more hepatitis C sufferers to undergo treatment.
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20 February 2006
Australians with hepatitis C will no longer be required to have a liver biopsy to gain access to subsidised treatments. The Commonwealth Government is hoping this will make it easier for more hepatitis C sufferers to undergo treatment.
This new measure follows other government actions to subsidise testing and treatments through Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).
In 2004-2005 the government provided $28.7 million for treatment of hepatitis C through the PBS. In August 2002, pegylated interferon received a Section 100 (Highly Specialised Drugs Program) listing and in April 2005 the requirement for an elevated liver enzyme test (ALT) to access hepatitis C treatment was removed.
This new arrangement, eliminating the need for a liver biopsy before accessing subsidised treatments, comes into effect on 1 April this year. It is estimated that this improved access will cost an additional $10 million per year to the PBS. On average, each patient’s drug treatment costs will be approximately $13,000 per year.
Hepatitis C is currently Australia’s second most common notifiable communicable disease, with around 260,000 people exposed to the virus, and nearly 195,000 estimated to have chronic hepatitis C infection. Unless its spread can be reduced, it is projected that numbers of infected people could rise to at least 321,000 people by 2020.
The government’s National Hepatitis C Strategy aims to reduce the spread through a coordinated national approach to treatment, care, surveillance, prevention and education. In July 2005 a new strategy was released in recognition of the serious public health impact of hepatitis C in the community.
For more information call Mr Abbott's office on ph 02 6277 7220.
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