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Government must widen Hep C cures now

Survivor Hazel Heal, advocate for Hep C Action Aotearoa is calling for interdepartmental cooperation to end the wait for people needing treatment.

“New Zealand’s situation is unique, discriminatory, costs lives and has gone on far too long” said Heal. Treatment for around half of those who need it is available and has been for over 2 years, depending on which strain they happen to have.

“Think of it like flu” Heal explains. “If you had the flu and were told, sorry, you have bird flu, we only treat swine flu”. That is the situation of the people who have been calling her for advice for years. In July Pharmac announced that, pending consultation, it expected to fund new medications that worked for all by 1 October, raising hopes the situation was finally resolved after years of horror stories of those missing out. Those hopes have been dashed, with delay announced and no timeline made public.

“What the government did in 2016 was pragmatic, the price being asked by pharma companies was impossible. Fifty thousand people need this cure. They took a deal which was an interim measure. Those not covered were advised through the NZ Gastro Guidelines to import their own generic medication through FixhepC, as I did. We had no idea then that this would drag out so long- people are desperate”.

Hep C Action is calling on the government to end the wait, and save millions by using the guidelines to get generic medications to people right now. Funding could be made available for people to import their own identical medication. It is an issue for other departments, not just Health.

“ACC is the obvious choice. Everybody got hep C by accident, it is a no fault system. MSD should be offering to pay for everyone on its books. Corrections especially, where there is a high rate of infection among prisoners, should be testing everyone and should look to this to treat all now. For about $2k people will be saved, cured- and like me, become productive. Doctors say, it is a slow disease, people can wait. Well, people fall over the cliff, as I nearly did. Every day given to the virus is a day from our lives. This discriminatory treatment access is unjust, and unnecessary. People should not have to wait any longer”.

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