Tuesday, 22 September 2015 12:37

Hep C drugs queue just gets longer

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Hepatitis Australia is using new data released from the Kirby Institute today showing only one per cent of people with hep C received treatment last year to push the government to list new hep C drugs without delay.

"It's time for action," said Kevin Marriott, Hepatitis Australia Acting CEO. "It's time of the federal government to make new therapies widely available, increase liver clinic capacity, upscale hepatitis C treatment and prevention programs and transform the lives of thousands of Australians."

New surveillance data from the Kirby Institute estimated some 230,470 people had chronic hepatitis C infection at the end of 2014. Around 80 percent had early to moderate fibrosis and 19 percent had severe fibrosis or hepatitis C related cirrhosis.

The estimated number of people with severe liver disease/hepatitis C related cirrhosis has more than doubled in ten years, according to the data.

Head of the viral hepatitis clinical research program at the Kirby Institute Professor Greg Dore said that without significant improvement in hepatitis C treatment rates, Australia would see a 245 percent increase in the rates of liver cancer and 230 percent increase in hep C-related deaths by 2030.

"Thousands of Australians are queuing up waiting for new medicines to be PBS listed. These treatments provide one of the great breakthroughs in clinical medicine in recent decades, with enormous potential to improve the lives of people living with hepatitis C," Professor Dore said.

Four new hep C medicines - Gilead's Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), BMS's Daklinza (daclatasvir)and AbbVie's Viekira Pak (paritaprevir with ritonavir, ombitasvir and dasabuvir plus ribavirin) - have been recommended for PBS listing but price negotiations with sponsors are ongoing. Professor Dore said previously, he suspected listing is more likely for sometime in 2016.

Mr Marriott said there is compelling evidence for the new medicines to be listed without delay before people progress to serious liver disease and die.

"Interferon-free therapies will allow the vast majority of people living with the hepatitis C virus to be cured, even where treatment has failed previously and without the terrible side-effects of existing treatments."

Michelle Lam

Originally published in Pharma in Focus. Reproduced with permission.

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