Hepatitis C to be ‘eliminated’ from Australia within 10 years, new report shows

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When a trip to the doctor for a blood test in 2009 ended with  a diagnosis of hepatitis C, Kerrie McKenzie’s first reaction was one of fear.

Despite her diagnosis the Tuggeranong resident had to wait until 2016 before she could begin treatment due to most medication being unavailable.

“My GP suggested that I wait for new treatment options because the ones available at the time weren’t suitable,” she said.

After starting 12 weeks of treatment last June once new medication became listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Ms McKenzie was cured.

“If I hadn’t have been treated, the chance of me having liver cancer would’ve been higher and I would’ve been a burden to the already burdened health service,” she said.

Ms McKenzie’s situation could soon be a common one across the country, with a new report released this week by The Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales showing hepatitis C is set to be eliminated from Australia within 10 years.

The report cited more people undertaking treatment, as well as more treatment options being available on the PBS for the future elimination of the condition.

Last year there were 30,000 people across Australia being treated for hepatitis C, compared with 3000 people in 2015.

It’s estimated 750 people accessed hepatitis C treatment in the ACT in 2016, with just more than 3500 living with the condition in the territory.

Professor Greg Dore from the Kirby Institute said through new treatment, hepatitis C would no longer be a public health issue.

“Australia has achieved one of the most rapid uptakes of treatment worldwide and has a unique opportunity to eliminate major infectious disease, potentially the first opportunity through treatment intervention,” he said.

Executive officer of Hepatitis ACT John Didlick said the news from The Kirby Institute represented a major step forward for people living with the condition.

However, he was cautiously optimistic about the report’s data, saying despite the claims of hepatitis C being eliminated within a decade, it won’t be completely eradicated from Australia.

“It is uplifting that people are speaking about hepatitis C in terms of elimination,” he said.

“However, elimination won’t be viable while we still have an over-reliance on specialists to provide the treatment, no regulated needle and syringe program in prisons and large numbers of undiagnosed people.”

Mr Didlick said more awareness as well as testing for the condition was needed in order to reduce the number of people affected.

“There could be up to 750 Canberrans currently that don’t know that they have it,” he said.

For Ms McKenzie, her treatment and eventual cure of hepatitis C has given her a new lease on life.

“I can now enjoy the rest of my life without having the prospect of liver cancer hanging over my head,” she said.

The story Hepatitis C to be ‘eliminated’ from Australia within 10 years, new report shows first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.