Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from April 1 will benefit a number of community groups affected by viral hepatitis.
Age restriction eased
Firstly, younger Australians – those over 12 years of age – are now able to access direct acting anti-viral (DAA) medication to treat hep C. While a relatively small percentage of the population living with hepatitis C, these many young Australians were still understandably keen to be cured of the virus. It is very good news that the age restriction for under 18s has now been changed.
Another change sees the removal of mandatory genotype testing. In the early days of DAA treatment, when the medications could only treat specific hep C genotypes, it was important for specialists and treating GPs to know their patient’s genotype; that way they could prescribe the correct treatment. Pangenotypic DAAs (which work regardless of genotype) have been available for some time now and the requirement for genotype testing added an unneeded extra step for people wanting to start treatment.
Finally, Nurse Practitioners (registered nurses with authority to work in an extended clinical role) can now prescribe s100 medicines in the care and management of people living with HIV and hep B in the community, and also hep C in corrective services settings. As with the other changes, this removes potential obstacles or hurdles to starting treatment for many people, especially those living with hep C and in prison. Hepatitis NSW already has great partnerships with many nurse practitioners across the state (through, for example, our peer work and the Clearing The Path campaign) and this PBS change will further improve the impact of our work.
Hepatitis NSW is very pleased to see these changes and looks forward to assisting the various communities who will benefit. We will be updating our resources and information as necessary.