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New Zealand First Hepatitis C Test And Treat Service In Community Pharmacies

In a New Zealand first, and coinciding with World Hepatitis Day, a new free* Test and Treat programme for New Zealanders with hepatitis C infection is being launched in community pharmacies across the Northern Region. Testing and treatment will be easier and more accessible than ever before.

This innovative initiative sees selected pharmacies in Northland and Auckland able to provide both a quick finger prick test for hepatitis C virus infection, and also to provide safe and effective treatment for those who test positive. There is no appointment or prescription needed.

Hepatitis C is a common cause of liver disease and can cause liver cancer.

Ed Gane, Hepatologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Auckland, says “early detection and treatment of hepatitis C saves lives. I encourage anyone with current or past risk factors for hepatitis C exposure to get tested at his or her general practice or local pharmacy.”

Dr Catherine Jackson, Medical Officer of Health at Northland DHB says “testing in pharmacy helps people find out easily that they have hepatitis C, and now we have made it even easier to get treated with treatment available both from the pharmacist or from your GP.”

Jilly Williams, award-winning pharmacist from Unichem Orrs Pharmacy Kaikohe adds: “overseas research has found that increasing access to testing and treatment through the pharmacist increases the number of people who get treated and therefore cured. We are pleased to be able to help New Zealand and our community get rid of hepatitis C through the Pharmacy Test and Treat programme.”

Testing and treatment in the pharmacy is free for New Zealand residents, with test results in just five minutes. The treatment is just a short course of tablets for eight weeks for most people. Treatment is over 98 percent effective in curing hepatitis C.

*Free for NZ residents. Pharmacists can now treat most people with hep C. Test results in just five (5) minutes.


There will be 13 pharmacies in Northland and 51 pharmacies in the Auckland region offering this service.

Background

  • Around 40,000 New Zealanders are living with hepatitis C. However, due to symptoms often not appearing for many years, half of them are unaware they have it.
  • Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver and can lead to cancer.
  • The virus is a major public health threat in New Zealand. Around 500 people contract hepatitis C every year and 150 people die from it.
  • New Zealand has a goal to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030.
  • While there is now a highly effective treatment that can cure up to 98 percent of those with hepatitis C, to achieve elimination we must ensure that everyone who has the virus is diagnosed so they can receive this treatment.
  • At risk people include those who have received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment, had a blood transfusion before 1992, ever injected drugs, been in prison, received medical treatment in a high-risk country, or been born to a mother with hepatitis C.
  • World Hepatitis Day on Wednesday 28 July will also see the launch of the National Hepatitis C Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand. The Action Plan sets out how New Zealand will eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat by 2030.
  • Pharmacies providing this service in Northland are listed here.

Media Event

Date: 28 July, 2021

Venue: Unichem Orrs Pharmacy Kaikohe - 34 Broadway, Kaikohe

Time: 11.30am

Spokespersons:

Pharmacist Jilly Williams, Unichem Orrs Pharmacy Kaikohe, 34 Broadway, Kaikohe

Dr Catherine Jackson Medical Officer of Health, Northland District Health Board

 

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