In what has been dubbed a “fast-tracked plan to eradicate Hepatitis C” in Australia, the Federal Government yesterday (December 20, 2015) pledged to invest AUD$1 billion over the next five years to subsidise the cost of four-combination-therapies or “new generation” treatments for the potentially life-threatening disease.
Federal Health Minister, the Hon. Sussan Ley MP said the four therapies, which are designed to treat all strains of the disease, will be made available to the 230,000-plus Australians living with hepatitis C from March, 2016.
According to Ms Ley, “The medicines we are listing are safe, easy to use, but most importantly, effective.
“It’s an eight-to 12-week course and the cure rate is well over 90 per cent,” said Ms Ley.
“These are breakthrough medicines that we hope will all but eradicate this deadly and debilitating disease within a generation.
“And we are amongst the first jurisdictions in the world, if not the first, to make these treatments available to every single person,” said Ms Ley.
Each year, around 700 Australians die from complications associated with Hepatitis C.
Liaising with Australian Associated Press (AAP) regarding the announcement, Australian Medical Association (AMA) President, Professor Brian Owler, said the new generation therapies are the result of decades of research worldwide.
“For Australians to have access to those [therapies] is an excellent thing, not only for those affected, but for the rest of the population as well.
“Patients have been lobbying very hard to get access to these drugs and it’s an excellent result for them and their families,” Prof Owler said.
The funding announcement follows US actress and model, Pamela Anderson’s recent public declaration of her complete recovery from Hepatitis C – a disease with which she has battled since 2001.
Reports suggest Anderson used a combination of antiviral therapies, including the new generation antiviral, sofosbuvir to mount a recovery from Hepatitis C. Anderson is currently championing access to the new therapies for every patient living with the disease.
The four combination therapies to be listed in multiple combinations on the PBS from March 1, 2016 include sofosbuvir, sofosbuvir plus ledipasvir, daclatasvir and ribavirin.
Prior to funding, access to a course of Hepatitis C treatment was approximately AUD$100,000. The treatments will now cost only AUD$37.70, or AUD$6.10 for concessional patients.
CEO of Hepatitis Australia, Ms Helen Tyrrell, congratulated the Government for agreeing to subsidise these treatments for all Australians living with Hepatitis C in the lead up to Christmas, allowing them to look forward to a cure.