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New hepatitis C treatment figures alarming

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New figures released by the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research show only 3,539 people accessed hepatitis C treatment last year.

Although the figures show an increase after liver biopsy was dropped as a prerequisite for treatment in April 2006, they have since plateaued.
Helen Tyrrell, CEO of Hepatitis Australia says the continuing low numbers of people accessing hepatitis C treatment is “alarming”.

The Report shows less than 2% of the estimated 207,600 people with chronic hepatitis C received treatment in 2007. In contrast around 65% of the estimated 16,692 Australians living with HIV received antiretroviral treatment in 2007.

“We have a situation where the barriers to hepatitis C treatment have not being adequately addressed despite the fact that the number of people with severe liver disease as a result of hepatitis C has risen from 35,900 to 47,600 in the last 5 years. Lack of awareness of treatment which can result in a cure is one issue and easy access to specialist medical and nursing staff is another major concern.

“Treatment isn’t for everyone, but people living with hepatitis C need to be aware effective treatment is available so they can make an informed decision about what is right for them.

“The sad fact is that liver transplant may be the only option for people with severe cirrhosis whose liver has stopped working. As liver damage can be occurring without any obvious symptoms it is worth seeing a doctor and considering treatment for hepatitis C even if you feel well at the moment” says Helen Tyrrell.

As part of the 2008 World Hepatitis Day, Hepatitis Australia called on the Federal Government to develop clear, quantifiable targets for treatment, a process Helen Tyrrell says needs to be fast tracked.

Sydney Grandmother Lynn underwent treatment for hepatitis C and was cleared of the hepatitis C virus in December 2007. Lynn says the side effects of treatment can be physically and emotionally draining, but for her it was the right choice.

“I had a choice – don't get treated and play the liver cancer lottery or get treated and have a good chance at a cure. For me, it was worth it” says Lynn.

If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause liver failure and liver cancer in a small but significant number of people. Combination therapy is successful in curing hepatitis C in about 80% of people with hepatitis C genotype 2 and/or 3 and approximately 50% of people with genotype 1, who finish treatment. Genotypes 1 and 3 are the most common strains of hepatitis C in Australia.

(Source: Hepatitis Australia: The 2008 HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis & sexually Transmissible Infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report, November 2008.)

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Posted On: 4 November, 2008
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

Created by: myVMC