Not everyone with hep B needs treatment.
The current treatments for hep B aim to stop the virus being active and multiplying. Treatment aims to decrease the amount of the virus in your blood (your “viral load”) so that your immune system can make the virus inactive.
The amount of virus in your blood will depend on which phase of the infection you are in, so you may need treatment at some times and not others. Most people who start treatment for chronic hep B will take their medications on a long-term basis.
Treatment cannot currently cure hep B: the goal is to control the virus by making it inactive.
In Australia there are a number of drugs used to treat hep B:
Entecavir (Baraclude®) and Tenofovir (Viread®) are two newer antiviral medications which are generally more potent (stronger). They are also taken orally, usually very well-tolerated (unlikely to cause side effects), and the virus is much less likely to become resistant to them with prolonged use.
Pegylated interferon boosts the body’s immune system and changes the virus’ ability to multiply. It is a synthetic version of a protein our bodies naturally produce (interferon). Pegylated interferon is injected under the skin once a week for up to twelve months. Several other drugs are available but are less effective and not as commonly used.
For most people, treatment is long term and it is really important not to stop treatment without advice from your treating doctor.
From 1 July 2015, the process for prescribing and dispensing hepatitis B medicines was simplified.
These changes made it easier for doctors to prescribe and for patients to have their prescriptions dispensed. Under the new arrangements, regardless of where the medicine is prescribed, patients may have their prescriptions dispensed from a pharmacy of their choice. Patients no longer have to be receiving care at or from a hospital to be prescribed these medicines. Patients will continue to pay a PBS patient co-payment which will contribute to their PBS Safety Net record.
People seeking greater detail on these changes should visit this link… PHARMACEUTICAL BENEFITS SCHEME (PBS) New options for hepatitis B medicine supply FAQs
This page was last updated 23 May 2016.
Primary sources for this page: HIV, Viral Hepatitis & STIs – a Guide for Primary Health Care (ASHM 2014), Hepatitis B Bear and You – Information about the different phases of hepatitis B infection (Dr Miriam Levy, Liverpool Hospital, 2013)