Australia leads the way in the treatment of Hepatitis C
Australia is leading the way in eradication hepatitis C, a viral infection that often leads to liver disease. Hepatitis C is the commonest reason for liver transplants in Australia. It can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis and long term ill health.
Until very recently Hepatitis C was very difficult to treat but newer medications have over a 90% chance of cure. The medications are well tolerated but are very expensive. The Australian government is the first government in the world to subsidise the medication for treatment by your GP. They have negotiated a fixed price for the medication for the first year, irrespective of the number of people treated. This means the more people that are treated the cheaper it is for the government and the quicker it will be to eradicate the infection in Australia.
Hepatitis C is spread through exposure to infected blood. Intravenous drug abuse with the use of contaminated, shared needles is the most common mode of transmission. There is often a social stigma about having hepatitis C which may inhibit seeking diagnosis and treatment.
Many people with Hepatitis C have it unknowingly. The people who should get tested are:
- People who currently inject drugs or snort drugs, or ever did so, even once many years previously
- People with persistently elevated liver enzyme
- People who have HIV infection
- Children born to HCV- or HIV-infected mothers
- People who were ever on long-term hemodialysis
- People who got a tattoo in an unregulated setting, such as prison or by an unlicensed person
- People who received transfusions or organ transplants
- Anyone exposed to a needle stick injury or anyone who has had eye or mouth or open wound exposure to another blood.
In Australia your GP is now able to prescribe the medication without the need to see a specialist or have painful tests.
Dr Rupert Backhouse
BM DipADAS FRACGP