A NEW treatment for hepatitis C will be available on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) from this week offering an alternative treatment option for residents in Mundaring and surrounding suburbs, an area with the highest rate of the virus in Australia.
A 2016 national report recorded 797 cases of diagnosed hepatitis C in the geographical area of Mundaring, which includes Swan View, Greenmount, Midvale, Chidlow, Glen Forrest, Darlington, Helena Valley, Koongamia and Malmalling.
The report showed 3.11 per cent of the area’s 25,604 residents had chronic hepatitis C, with only 65 of those seeking treatment between March 2016 and February 2017.
St John of God Midland Public Hospital consultant gastroenterologist Dr Jee Kong said that while once-a-day oral treatments for the virus became available in March 2016, the new drug has several benefits.
“From August 1 there is a newer option that we can use to treat hepatitis C,” he said.
“What’s different is that it can treat all six genotypes of hepatitis C.
“The other difference is the duration is shorter, that’s important because the duration can put patients off, if treatment duration is short and only for two months instead of the usual six, more patients might come forward.”
Unlike hepatitis B, there is no vaccination for hepatitis C and its prevalence is not associated with the area’s controversial low immunisation rates. (PBS)
“There are a few risk factors in determining if a suburb has higher or lower prevalence,” Dr Kong said.
“People who inject drugs or have ever injected drugs, people in custodial settings, people with tattoos or body piercings and people who received a blood transfusion before 1993.
“Eighty to 90 per cent of cases fall into the first one, people who inject.
“Australia-wide the people who have injected drugs are at the highest risk of developing hep C.”
Left untreated the virus can cause liver damage, lead to liver failure, cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Getting treatment can be as easy as making an appointment with your GP.
“My advice is that if anyone has got any of these risk factors they should get tested, based on that simple blood test it can be determined if they have hep C or not,” Dr Kong said.
MAVIRET is the new once-daily, eight-week treatment for adults with all major genotypes of hepatitis C who are new to treatment and without cirrhosis.
The therapy contains two direct-acting anti-viral agents that work to block the life-cycle of the hepatitis C virus.
The PBS listing is part a Federal Government $1 billion investment in direct-acting antiviral treatments to help reach the World Health Organisation target of elimination of hepatitis C by 2030.
By Claire Ottaviano