- New Hepatitis C Drugs – PBAC Update
- New options for people living with hepatitis B to get prescriptions filled
- Parliament Releases The Silent Disease Report
New Hepatitis C Drugs – PBAC Update
As regular readers of The Champion would be aware, a number of hepatitis C drugs will be considered at the July meeting of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).
This includes Viekira Pak (paritaprevir with ritonavir, ombitasvir and dasabuvir), which is an interferon-free combination treatment for hepatitis C genotype 1.
Thank you very much to everyone who lodged a submission to the PBAC calling for these drugs to be approved – and to our partner organisations across the sector for getting on board the push for Equal Treatment Access to these potentially life-saving new treatments.
It is expected that the recommendations from the July meeting will be announced in late August – and Hepatitis NSW will provide an update on the outcome via social media, and through The Champion.
The other hepatitis C drugs which have already been recommended by the PBAC – sofosbuvir, sofosbuvir/ledipasvir, and daclatasvir – remain the subject of price negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the pharmaceutical companies involved.
Once those negotiations are concluded, it is still up to the Commonwealth Cabinet to agree to fund these new drugs on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – with the best case scenario that there is an announcement late in 2015.
We know how frustrating the wait has been, and continues to be, for access to treatments which are already in use in a large number of countries around the world. Hepatitis NSW will continue to advocate for their listing on the PBS, and that they are made available to as many people as possible.
New options for people living with hepatitis B to get prescriptions filled
In exciting news, people living with chronic hepatitis B will have the option of obtaining their hepatitis B treatment drugs from pharmacies in the community, rather than having to get their prescriptions filled at hospital-based pharmacies.
The changes take effect from 1 July 2015.
From the Australian Government’s FAQ document explaining the changes:
“Under the new arrangements, regardless of where the medicine is prescribed, patients may have prescriptions for… Hepatitis B medicines dispensed from a pharmacy of their choice. Patients will no longer have to be receiving care at or from a hospital to be prescribed these medicines under the [Highly Specialised Drugs] programme. All other patient eligibility criteria are unchanged.”
The process will be streamlined for prescribers, too. Again from the FAQ document:
“From 1 July 2015, community based practitioners authorised under state and territory arrangements to prescribe… hepatitis B medicines will be able to do so without the need to demonstrate an association with a hospital. All other prescriber eligibility criteria required under the PBS remain the same.”
Hepatitis NSW welcomes these changes and hopes that the removal of the need for people to travel, often considerable distances, to access hepatitis B drugs will help to increase treatment rates, which is a key goal of the NSW, and Australian, Hepatitis B Strategies which were both released in 2014.
Parliament Releases “The Silent Disease” Report
Last week saw the release of the Final Report of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Inquiry into Hepatitis C. Called The Silent Disease (link: click here), the Report looks at a wide range of issues surrounding hepatitis C in Australia, and makes 10 recommendations for change, including that:
- The Australian Government work with states and territories to develop well-informed hepatitis C awareness campaigns, aimed at the general community, people at risk of hep C, people living with hep C and also against stigma and discrimination
- The Commonwealth Department of Health work with states and territories to develop strategies to address the high prevalence of hepatitis C in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and
- A national strategy for blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections in prisons be developed (to complement the existing national strategies on hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV, among others).
Disappointingly, the Report does not recommend the introduction of NSPs into prisons – which is, as we have consistently advocated, essential to prevent hepatitis C transmission.
The Silent Disease also fails to recommend that new hepatitis C treatments be approved as quickly as possible, and made accessible to as many people as possible.
Despite these shortcomings, the report nevertheless points the way forward on a range of issues which we hope the Australian, and New South Wales, Governments take action on as a matter of priority.
Finally, Hepatitis NSW would like to say a big thank you to all those people from the community who made submissions to the inquiry, including the five community members who appeared before the Committee to give evidence in Sydney earlier this year. You have made your voices loud and clear – and helped Australia take another step forward on the long road to ending the hep C epidemic.
For more, you can see the Hepatitis Australia media release here: hepatitisaustralia.com/media-releases