News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search

 


Hepatitis C Treatment Makes Economic Sense

Media Release
1st April 2005

Treatment For Hepatitis C Sufferers Makes Economic Sense

Research by the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences has shown that methadone maintenance therapy for injecting drug users saves lives, and it is also cost-effective to treat their Hepatitis C virus.

The Otago University research team investigated both Maori and non-Maori drug users who are on methadone maintenance and found that excess mortality from drug overdoses was reduced by 75% amongst people who are on methadone maintenance. 98% of the participants stopped injecting drugs, reported large improvements in their health and also reductions in drug-related crime.

Although 84% of the estimated 19,000 injecting drug users in N.Z. have Hepatitis C, few are receiving treatment for the virus. The total number with the virus in NZ is estimated at 30,000 people, but that is expected to double by 2010. End stage Hepatitis C can be fatal, has major effects on the liver and other serious health impacts. There is evidence that large numbers of drug users actually want treatment for Hepatitis C, but don’t get it. Meanwhile there are also long waiting lists for methadone maintenance treatment (MMT).

Lead investigator Dr Ian Sheerin from the Department of Public Health and General Practice at the School says there is an urgent need for policies aimed to control the spread of this debilitating virus. These include needle exchanges, education about risky behaviours, blood awareness, access to drug and alcohol services, as well as Hepatitis C treatment.

“The size of the health problem is not being matched by government investment in communicable disease control. The policy documents say the right things, but the commitment has not been made to address the issue adequately.”

“However, the government made an important step in 2004 when it funded combination medication for Hepatitis C. Research shows this treatment is effective. For some of types of Hep C, combination therapy has been shown to cure 80% of cases. “

Dr Sheerin says the key is that although Hepatitis C medication is expensive, the courses are short and will prevent 39% of future health costs. He says if nothing is done, then two things are likely to happen. Hepatitis C will spread, not only amongst drug users, but also in wider N.Z. society. This will have rapidly escalating health and social welfare costs as sufferers become more debilitated, need constant health care, and their livers fail.

These costs have already been estimated to rise between to $166 and $400 million in the next 30 years unless adequate treatment and disease control is provided. It costs more than $120,000 for a liver transplant and there is a major shortage of liver donors. It makes more sense to invest in Hepatitis C treatment at an early stage, than wait until people need a liver transplant.

“There’s a tendency in N.Z. to see this as just a drug users’ problem, therefore why worry. That’s ignoring the fact that Hepatitis C is a growing and expensive health issue, which won’t go away,” says Dr Sheerin. ” The existence of a large pool of untreated infectious disease is a potential threat to everyone”.

Because, the Hepatitis C virus is slow in its progression, there has been limited recognition of this public health issue and New Zealand is currently losing ground by about 1300 new infections every year.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 
Culture: Rare Hundertwasser Conservation Posters Found After 40 Years

When Jan and Arnold Heine put a roll of conservation posters into storage in 1974 they had no idea that 42 years later they would be collectors items. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: The Stolen Island: Searching for ‘Ata by Scott Hamilton

Reviewed by Michael Horowitz
Located even further south than temperate Noumea, Tonga’s tiny island of ‘Ata might have become the jewel of the kingdom’s burgeoning tourist industry. Imagine a Tongan resort that would not only be mild in winter, but pleasant in summer. More>>

Reviewed by Michael Horowitz
Located even further south than temperate Noumea, Tonga’s tiny island of ‘Ata might have become the jewel of the kingdom’s burgeoning tourist industry. Imagine a Tongan resort that would not only be mild in winter, but pleasant in summer. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: No Pretence. No Bullshit. Fine Poem.

John Dickson doesn’t publish much; never has. Indeed, this new collection is his first such in 18 years. As he wryly and dryly states,

I’ve published two slim volumes, and spent all
My time working on the next.
(from Wasp p.67) More>>

Scoop Review of Books: Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays On Place From Aotearoa NZ

The New Zealand landscape undoubtedly is very beautiful, but so is the British one, and my attachment to this country is much more about some particular places, and the memories and emotions that in them combine, than it is about the landscape as a whole. More>>

Canonisation Fodder: Suzanne Aubert Declared ‘Venerable’

Suzanne Aubert, the founder of the Sisters of Compassion New Zealand’s home grown order of Sisters, has been declared ‘venerable’, a major milestone on the path to sainthood in the Catholic Church. More>>

“I Have Not Performed Well Enough”: Ernie Merrick Leaving Wellington Phoenix

Ernie Merrick has stepped down from his position as Wellington Phoenix FC Head Coach. The club would like to thank Ernie for his contribution to Wellington Phoenix and wish him all the best in his future endeavours. More>>

Ray Columbus: NZ Music Icon Passes Away

60s New Zealand music Icon Ray Columbus has passed away peacefully at his home north of Auckland... Ray Columbus enjoyed more than three decades at the top of NZ entertainment as a singer, songwriter, bandleader, music manager and TV star. More>>

Review: Bernard Herrmann's Scores For 'Vertigo' & 'Psycho'

Howard Davis: The NZSO's adventurousness was richly-rewarded, as the deeply appreciative Wellington audience was given the opportunity not only to see a couple of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films, but also to hear fine renditions of two of Bernard Herrmann's most accomplished film scores. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Health
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news