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news-blog

Use of Fincol in NSW prisons: preventing hep C transmission

FincolWe know from the ample evidence before the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ that, like it or not, drugs and injecting equipment find their way into, and are used in, prisons. This is an unavoidable reality.

Hepatitis NSW strongly supports the ongoing provision and use of Fincol as a disinfectant in correctional settings.

Regarding evidence provided to the current Inquiry – and the reporting of that evidence – the impression has been given that Fincol is of ‘dubious efficacy’ when used by people in prison as a disinfectant to clean syringes and other equipment used to inject drugs.

Using Fincol is better than using nothing at all

We know that when Fincol is used as per the manufacturers’ instructions, it is effective in killing hepatitis C and other blood borne viruses.

It is not the efficacy of Fincol that should be questioned, but rather the circumstances surrounding Fincol’s availability and usage, as it is these factors which lead to injecting equipment not being adequately disinfected.

Fincol is not readily available in all areas in NSW prisons. Furthermore, when it is used, people in jail often do not have the ability or time to clean scarce injecting equipment as per the instructions.

Fincol poster

Excerpted from a poster produced by Hepatitis NSW for distribution in NSW Prisons to promote correct usage of Fincol.

Despite these shortcomings, it is far better for people in prison to use Fincol to try to disinfect injecting equipment as thoroughly as possible, rather than not clean the syringes at all.

A preferable solution: Prison Needle Exchange

What would be far more effective is the provision of sterile injecting equipment, on a strict one-for-one exchange basis, to people in prison who inject drugs.

To reduce the risk of transmission of hep C and other blood borne viruses in prison, a controlled needle exchange system is essential. Needle exchanges exist in prisons overseas, including in Canada.

We note that drugs are illegal both in prison and in the broader community. Regardless, widespread needle and syringe programs (NSPs) are available in the broader community and serve as a highly effective means of preventing the transmission of hep C and other BBVs among people who inject drugs, however they are not available in any prison in Australia.

There is not, therefore, an equivalence of health care provision between people in prison and people in the broader community.

Prison officers are at greater risk from accidental needle stick injuries, and potential HCV infection, with the current system of uncontrolled needle use, where syringes carry a high value and are difficult to disinfect, than they would be under a tightly controlled needle exchange program.

In the meantime use Fincol to disinfect injection equipment

While this debate around Fincol and prison based needle exchanges continues, it essential that people in prison be provided with the means to disinfect injecting equipment as best they can. Fincol is currently the only available means.

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Can hepatitis C be cured?

Image by Arturo Castellanos | flic.kr/p/9SMdayCan hepatitis C be cured? The simple, and happy, answer is yes!

New drugs, known as Direct Acting Antivirals (or DAAs), are now available in Australia through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and they offer a significant breakthrough in hepatitis C treatment. The previous form of treatment, a combination of interferon and ribavirin, is now history.

These all new hepatitis C DAAs – the brands of which sport tongue twisting names such as Epclusa, Harvoni, Marivet and Zepatir – are highly effective and have significant benefits and improvements compared to the old interferon/ribavirin treatment.

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New Hepatitis NSW CEO Announced

Steven DrewBoard President, Dr Denise Jarratt, has announced that Mr Steven Drew has been appointed as the new CEO of Hepatitis NSW, commencing on 1 October 2019.

Steven has held a number of senior appointments throughout his career. These include ten years as CEO of the Pharmaceutical Society of NSW and of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Limited (NSW Branch), working in the NSW Attorney’s General Department as Director of Crime Prevention, working with cabinet ministers and as a non-executive director on a number of Boards.

Dr Jarratt advised that Steven brings exceptionally strong skills and capacity in the areas of leadership, management, networking, partnership, engaging political engagement, advocacy, communication, strategic management and strategy development.
Steven will be working with outgoing CEO Stuart Loveday during a short handover period. Stuart has confirmed he will formally retire from Hepatitis NSW on 29 October 2019.

Stuart leaves with our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for 25 years of incredible service to Hepatitis NSW and to the communities of people affected by hepatitis C and hepatitis B in NSW.
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Being cured of hepatitis C a “huge relief”

Jase BellOver 24,000 people in New South Wales have started treatment for, and been cured of, hepatitis C since 2016. While this is a great achievement for our community, it is estimated that a further 57,000 across the state are yet to seek treatment and cure. That number represents way more people than it would take to fill the Sydney Cricket Ground!

Thanks to groundbreaking medications, elimination of hepatitis C is now an achievable goal, but one which requires the combined efforts of government, the health sector, and community to be fully realised.

During Hepatitis Awareness Week (22–28 July) and with World Hepatitis Day on 28 July, Hepatitis NSW is encouraging all people across the state who are living with hepatitis C, to take advantage of new easy-to-take and highly effective medications.

The medications, which have a cure rate of 95 per cent, can be prescribed by any general practitioner, and cure is usually achieved within 8 or 12 weeks, with minimal or no side-effects. These new oral pill treatments have offered a revolutionary opportunity. It is important that people see their GP to be treated; while hepatitis C initially has almost no symptoms, if left untreated it can ultimately result in significant liver disease.

Jase Bell, a Hepatitis NSW community speaker, said he was unsure how long he had been living with hepatitis C before he was diagnosed 18 months ago. “I might have had it for up to ten years, and I was shocked to be diagnosed because I had no idea at all,” Jase said. “Fortunately, I was able to be treated and cured within a few short months. It was a huge relief, a great weight lifted off my shoulders.”

With so many people cured it is encouraging that progress has been made in reaching the NSW goal of eliminating hepatitis C across the state by 2028, but now is not the time to rest. It is essential that anyone who believes they may be living with hepatitis C, strongly consider commencing treatment, and get themselves cured. It’s equally important for all GPs across NSW to also join the effort if they haven’t already done so.

“I would absolutely recommend the cures to anyone living with hep C,” said Jase. “Just do it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

More info: 1800 803 990

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Cheryl Burman Award winners since 2013

Cheryl BurmanThe Cheryl Burman Award is an annual recognition by Hepatitis NSW that acknowledges outstanding commitments, by individuals or organisations, towards improving the life of people living with viral hepatitis.

The award itself is named after Cheryl Burman (left), who was a former Board member and President of the Hepatitis C Council of NSW (now Hepatitis NSW). Sadly she died in 2011 after a long and arduous struggle with hepatitis C related liver disease.

With the recent naming of Gail Snelgar as the 2018 award recipient, we thought it would be a good time to look back and remember all winners since the Award’s inception in 2013.

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My Health Record: Information about your options

There is a new medical record system called My Health Record. It is an online database designed to keep all your medical records in one place, operated by the Australian Government. The link below describes the benefits and risks to help you make an informed decision, and talks about how to opt out if you do not want a My Health Record.

If you don’t want a My Health Record, you can choose to opt-out. The deadline is 31 January 2019.

If you want a My Health Record, you don’t need to do anything. After 31 January 2019, health services will upload the past two years of your Medicare and pharmacy records into the system. Already, 6.3 million people have a My Health Record. After 31 January 2019, you can delete your record permanently at any time.

For more details, see www.hep.org.au/my-health-record-information-about-your-options/

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Gail Snelgar wins 2018 Hepatitis NSW Cheryl Burman Award

Hepatitis NSW is delighted to announce that Ms Gail Snelgar is the 2018 winner of our Annual Cheryl Burman Award, which acknowledges outstanding work or achievements by an individual or team in NSW within the viral hepatitis sector.

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Chinese Community Leaders Forum: “Hepatitis B – Why bother?”

Hepatitis NSW Chinese Community Leaders Forum – which is funded by WentWest, the Western Sydney Primary Health Network – was held on 31 October, 2018 at Castle Hill RSL. The event attracted 33 prominent leaders from the Chinese community and was part of an ongoing partnership with Western Sydney Local Health District to tackle hepatitis B in our community.

The event educated community leaders and highlighted the importance of hepatitis B testing, monitoring and treatment in the Chinese community.

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DAAs decrease hep C deaths but double GPs needed

Hepatitis C deaths have declined by 20% in the two years since direct-acting antivirals were added to the PBS, infectious diseases physicians say. Professor Greg Dore, from the Kirby Institute, says the decline in deaths among patients with liver disease is remarkable and testament to the high uptake of the drugs.

“Around 10% of GPs have written a script for these new therapies — we’d like to potentially double that.”

www.pharmacynews.com.au/news/remarkable-results-daas-decrease-hep-c-deaths

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Fewer Australians are dying from hepatitis C

The number of Australians dying from liver failure and liver cancer related to hepatitis C has dropped by 20 per cent in just two years, according to preliminary data released today by The Kirby Institute. It follows the introduction of highly effective, low-cost curative drugs to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in 2016.

“This decline reflects the high uptake of direct-acting antiviral therapies among people with hepatitis C, particularly those with more advanced liver disease,” said Greg Dore from the Kirby Institute.

www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-08-13/fewer-australians-dying-from-hepatitis-c

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