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New treatment for Hepatitis sufferers

20 May 2004

New advanced weight-based treatment for Hepatitis sufferers

The funding of a new Hepatitis C treatment PEGATRON is great news for Hepatitis C sufferers.

From June 1 Pharmac will fully fund PEGATRONR (pegylated interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin) a new Schering-Plough treatment for Hepatitis C. PEGATRON is the only interferon treatment dosed according to an individual's weight.

"Numerous studies have shown that weight is a significant predictor of success with Interferon therapy and hence PEGATRON has been designed to be dosed according to an individual's weight. The individual dosing of PEGATRON enables the patient to receive the greatest benefit from the therapy", said Schering-Plough Division Manager, Nandu Pasupuleti.

Pharmac recently approved a Pegylated Interferon for patients with genotype one. However, there are six genotypes, which meant that patients suffering from the other five forms of genotype did not have access to new and advanced treatment. PEGATRON is the only treatment available for sufferers of severe and advanced cases of Hepatitis C, Genotypes 4,5,6 and 2 and 3 with cirrhosis and bridging fibrosis.

Approximately 30,000 New Zealanders are infected with the Hepatitis C virus.

It is the leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver transplantation in both Europe and the United States.

Leading Hepatologist, Associate Professor Ed Gane, of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit, Auckland Hospital welcomed the announcement of additional funding for Hepatitis C treatment. "In New Zealand almost one third of adult liver transplants are performed because of complications from Hepatitis C".

" It is important that patients most at risk are given treatment because untreated Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. The estimated cost of one liver transplant in New Zealand is approximately $150,000," said Associate Professor Ed Gane.

"It is a matter of public awareness and education. People who have risk factors for previous HCV exposure must be encouraged to be tested for Hepatitis HCV infection. They also need to know that effective treatment for this condition is now available in New Zealand. If you treat the disease, you can prevent the progression of liver inflammation, cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for liver transplants. Most people can be cured of Hepatitis C through the use of Pegylated Interferon plus Ribavirin treatment," said Ed Gane.

While more than 300,000 patients worldwide have been treated with Pegatron it is the first time patients in New Zealand will have access to PEGATRON, which is fully subsidised through Government agency, Pharmac.

PEGATRON is a long acting form of interferon, which is given in combination with the antiviral Ribavirin drug to help fight Hepatitis C, supplied by drug company Schering-Plough.

ENDS


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