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2000 kiwis benefit from lifesaving new hep C treatment


The Ministry of Health and PHARMAC are pleased to see New Zealanders with hepatitis C and health professionals across the country moving quickly to access the life-saving new treatment Maviret.

“More than two thousand New Zealanders with hepatitis C have started on this incredibly beneficial new medicine since it was funded by PHARMAC in February,” says the Ministry’s deputy Director of Public Health Dr Harriette Carr.

“It’s really pleasing to see the rapid uptake of this new treatment and comes as we marked World Hepatitis Day yesterday. This treatment will restore the health - and save the lives - of thousands of New Zealanders and avoid the need for many costly liver transplants.

We want to raise awareness about hepatitis C in New Zealand and encourage as many people as possible who may be at risk of hepatitis to get tested and get treated."

“Maviret can potentially cure 99% of people with chronic hepatitis C regardless of the type of hep C virus they have. It can be accessed in the community and prescribing is an easier, shorter and simpler process than for the previous less effective treatments," says Dr Carr.

“Maviret is not a cheap medicine, but the last few months have demonstrated that where the benefits of new medicines to New Zealanders are clear and substantial, we will move quickly to fund them,” says PHARMAC’s Chief Executive Sarah Fitt.

“I encourage anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to hep C to get tested and if necessary, get treated."

The Deputy Director of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit, Professor Ed Gane is also excited with the rapid uptake of the treatment.

“This is a great start and unprecedented for a new hepatitis C treatment,” Professor Gane says.

“If it can be maintained, then hepatitis C will be eliminated from New Zealand within the next 10-15 years.”

BACKGROUND

In May 2016 New Zealand was one of 194 countries that adopted the World Health Organization’s Global Hepatitis Strategy, which set the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.

In response to this call to action, work is underway on the development of a National Hepatitis C Action Plan. A cross-sector working group is undertaking the collaborative development of the plan with the Ministry of Health.

For information on our work eliminating hepatitis C: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/hepatitis-c/training-and-education-resources-hepatitis-c.

This year’s World Hepatitis Day (yesterday) comes hard on the heels of a three-month national ‘Get Hep C Tested’ campaign to encourage people who are most at risk of getting hepatitis C to get tested by contacting their GP or other health professional.

It is estimated that almost half of the 50,000 New Zealanders living with hepatitis C, still don’t know that they have it.

Hep C tests may also be available from community-based health professionals in places other than in general practice or in hospital. This includes some Needle Exchange Services, Community Alcohol and Drug Services, Opioid Treatment Services and some pharmacies taking part in pilot programmes.

People can get hep C many ways like getting tattooed. But the most common is from sharing needles – so if a person has ever injected drugs using a shared needle, they should get tested.

Unlike hepatitis C, there is no cure for hepatitis B although there is an effective vaccine. People with chronic hepatitis B infection require lifelong management. Free vaccination is offered to people under 18 years of age, household contacts and sexual partners of people infected with hepatitis B. Approximately 110,000 people in New Zealand are estimated to have chronic hepatitis B, and many people are undiagnosed because symptoms often don’t appear for decades.

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