Recommendations important step in watershed year in hepatitis C fight

27 April, 2015

Recommendations to include three ground-breaking curative antiviral therapies on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is a watershed moment which, if implemented, will fundamentally change the way hepatitis C is treated in Australia.

Hepatitis NSW CEO, Stuart Loveday, welcomed the positive recommendation by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) for:

  • Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)
  • Sofosbuvir/ledipasvir (known as Harvoni overseas)
  • Daclatasvir/sofosbuvir (Daklinza/Sovaldi)

Loveday urged the Commonwealth Government to "accept the experts' advice and ensure that all three drugs are listed on the PBS as quickly as possible."

"The PBAC recommendations are great news for people living with hepatitis C and moves Australia a step closer to making 2015 a watershed year for hepatitis C. However, without confirmation of a PBS listing date, people with hepatitis C are still waiting for access to these medicines which are already widely available overseas."

"With the approval of Cabinet, people with hepatitis C genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 – the main genotypes in Australia – will at last have affordable access to interferon-free therapy," he added.

Loveday is calling on the Commonwealth Government and the companies that make the new medicines to finalise negotiations so that "Cabinet can approve funding for these life-saving drugs in the next few months to help meet the nationally-approved treatment targets for 2015."

"The Commonwealth Government has committed to doubling hepatitis C treatment rates each year as part of the Fourth National Hepatitis C Strategy but this will only be achievable by making these new drugs accessible."

"Tragically, more than 50 Australians lose their lives to hepatitis C-related liver disease every month – and thousands more live with the physical and psychological burden of the illness."

"The Federal Government has an historic opportunity to make-interferon free options available for all 230,000 people living with hepatitis C in Australia, including more than 90,000 people in NSW," he added.

Sofosbuvir, sofosbuvir/ledipasvir and daclatasvir/sofosbuvir are new generation antivirals. They have exceptionally high cure rates that exceed 90 per cent, a shorter duration of treatment and are much better tolerated than traditional therapies.

"These positive recommendations by the PBAC are really exciting, and welcome, news," said Grenville Rose, who has been living with chronic hepatitis C for nearly 40 years and who has twice undergone existing treatments, both times without success.

"I sincerely hope the Commonwealth Government acts on these recommendations as quickly as they possibly can – so that I can begin my life without hepatitis C as soon as I possibly can," Rose added.

"The PBAC has done its job – now it is up to the Commonwealth Government to ensure that a hepatitis C-free future is a possibility for almost a quarter of a million Australians," Loveday said.