It's been a year since a suite of new drugs to treat Hepatitis C was approved on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), and since then the Bathurst Hepatitis Clinic has seen over 100 clients clear the virus.
Hepatitis Nurse for the Bathurst area, Katherine McQuillan has witnessed firsthand the benefit of these new drugs.
“The difference these new treatments make is remarkable. The treatment durations are shorter and there are less medications for people to take with fewer side effects than the interferon days. It has been extremely rewarding telling people that they are Hep C free after what often is for some a 20-30 year struggle with the virus," Katherine said.
Hepatitis C often disproportionally affects our most disadvantaged community members and many people with Hepatitis C don't realise they have it until they start getting sick or have an incidental test.
“Our goals include engaging with priority populations – people who inject drugs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people in custody, as well as others for whom treatment may be a low priority," Katherine said.
The Viral Hepatitis Nurses and Doctors around the region have been working hard to create opportunities for people to gain access to treatment through their Liver/Hepatitis clinics, GPs, and Drug and Alcohol services.
A Hepatitis assessment includes information about Hepatitis C, a blood test, a fibroscan (a non-invasive test to check on the stiffness of your liver) and physical exam. Based on these results your treatment will be either 8, 12 or 24 weeks with approximately 95% cure.
For more info on Hepatitis C visit https://www.hep.org.au/what-is-hepatitis-c/.
The Kirby Institute estimates that from March to September 2016, roughly 25,890 people with Hepatitis C started treatment with these new medications, which is about 11% of the people estimated to have chronic Hepatitis C in Australia. It's a great start, but there is still a long way to go.
There are three viral hepatitis clinics in Western NSW Local Health District based in Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo.
The viral hepatitis nurses also conduct regular outreach to various townships to help those unable to travel to a clinic to access services.
Bathurst: (02) 6330 5866
Orange: (02) 6392 8600
Dubbo: (02) 6885 8999
Source of information from The Kirby Institute: The Kirby Institute. Monitoring hepatitis C treatment uptake in Australia (Issue 6). The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia, February 2017 (available online at: http://kirby.unsw.edu.au/research-programs/vhcrp-newsletters). For more information, contact Professor Greg Dore (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr Behzad Hajari (email@example.com).
Media enquiries: Brendan Williams, Media Manager, Western NSW Local Health District via firstname.lastname@example.org