Changes to PBS for hepatitis treatment mean better and easier access to cure
Changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from April 1 will benefit a number of community groups affected by viral hepatitis.
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.
COVID-19 delays Hep C Campaign 2020
Had all gone to plan, Hep C Campaign 2020 – our major hep C cure campaign, would have kicked off at the beginning of April. Unfortunately, the massive spanner that is COVID-19 has significantly jammed up the works, forcing us to rethink the timelines.
Hep C Campaign 2020 plans to feature a major engagement component featuring peers connecting with people from the drug injecting community at NSPs and other services across the state. The campaign will also utilise street art, including footpath stencils and posters in locations near and around services. There will also be some branded merchandise to start conversations about, and to encourage uptake of, treatment.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is putting huge pressure on health services and the lockdown has forced major changes to delivery and availability of services. As a result, we have made the decision, with the support of our partners, to postpone the campaign until later in the year.
In the meantime, we are going to continue with a targeted version of our Clearing the Path campaign.
Stay tuned for the launch of our Hep C Campaign 2020 campaign. later in the year. We will keep you up-to-date as the COVID-19 situation becomes clearer.
Check out the Clearing the Path campaign website>>>CLICK HERE
Hepatitis NSW’s services and programs during COVID-19 measures
It should come as no surprise that recent developments with COVID-19, and the ensuing shutdowns or limiting of many services, has also led to changes to how Hepatitis NSW works. Here’s a summary of where our services, programs and education sessions are at for the time being. We’ll provide more information as the situation evolves.
We’re looking at all the ways we can support our community over the next few weeks and months. We’re still here for the community, just mostly online and over the phone and we’ll be back out there in all the places we’re usually found as soon as we’re able to be.
Hepatitis NSW remains committed to our colleagues and stakeholders in supporting all communities affected by viral hepatitis during this time.
A dedicated page with frequently updated info, and links to other relevant pages including a fact sheet published by Hepatitis Australia>>>Coronavirus COVID-19 factsheet for people with hepatitis B and hepatitis C
Infoline 1800 803 990 and Online Chat (hep.org.au)
Both the Infoline and Chat will continue to operate to the usual days and hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday 9:00am-5:00pm/Thursday 1:00pm-5:00pm
Live Hep C Free program and Positive Speaker program
It will come as no surprise that all of our peer and speaker work has been cancelled for the foreseeable future as we navigate this COVID-19 situation. The safety and wellbeing of our casual staff is really important to us and as long as our healthcare partners are holding off on outreach work, so too will we. We’re doing what we can to support our peer and speaker workforce during this time and the Live Hep C Free program and Positive Speaker program will be back once it’s safe for us to get back out there.
We are recruiting at this time, however, and hoping to find lots of great peer workers to hit the ground running once the program is back up and running as normal. If you or someone you know would make a great peer worker>>> CLICK HERE to get in touch
Get Bloody Serious Workshops
To support efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic we have postponed external activities including training. We are developing requested training packages to be delivered online in the near future.
Resources (NSW only)
We are still filling and posting out orders for our free resources. >>>CLICK HERE to order
Our easy read comic magazine resource is still being produced and delivered – edition #34 became available online last week and will be mailed to subscribers the week after Easter. >>>CLICK HERE to read/subscribe