Hepatology medicine is on the threshold of massive changes, according to Burnet Institute’s Head of the Centre for Population Health, Professor Margaret Hellard.
Professor Hellard predicts a turning point in the treatment of hepatitis C once new drugs are released onto Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) later this year.
For the first time Australian doctors will be able to prescribe new treatment drugs, previously only available in the United States, for their hepatitis C patients.
“The push is underway globally and in Australia to lead to the elimination of harms from hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C, because of the changes in treatment,” Professor Hellard said, ahead of World Hepatitis Day, Tuesday 28 July.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) is about to release its goals for 2030 where it wants to see dramatic falls in death from hepatitis C and from liver failure and liver cancer.
“That will be driven by treatment interventions, which we have now got.”
Worldwide, an estimated 170 million people are living with hepatitis C and close to 300 million with hepatitis B. Every year 1.4 million people die from viral hepatitis and yet all of these deaths are preventable.
In Australia it’s estimated that more than 220,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis C infection and more than 200,000 are living with hepatitis B.
Professor Hellard said Burnet is playing its part with the innovative TAP Study in Melbourne, which presents an opportunity to reduce harms and costs.
“TAP is a big treatment scale-up program with a focus on how we can best deliver treatments to people who need it using a nurse-led model of care,” Professor Hellard said.
“We’re doing a few projects on different models so we can get care into the community and into general practices and taking it out of hospitals.
“Getting into a hospital has always been a barrier to care for some of these problems and if we can get this out to where people are then it’s a lot easier for them to get treated and cured.”
Professor Hellard will be presenting an update on the latest hepatitis treatments, ‘A Watershed moment for Hepatitis C treatment’ to Murray Primary Health Network in Bendigo on the evening of World Hepatitis Day.
An initiative of WHO and World Hepatitis Alliance, World Hepatitis Day aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.