Friday 27 February 2015

Hepatitis C: "Mission accomplished"? (CROI 2015 Day 4)

AFAO Health Promotion Officer, Sean Slavin, blogs live from CROI 2015:

A cure for hepatitis C? "Mission accomplished" is the message from ‪#‎CROI2015‬, as a range of new drugs demonstrate high efficacy with minimal side effects. A number of these have been approved for use in the US.

Implementation, however, is in its infancy and there are currently significant cost barriers with the drug manufacturers struggling to demonstrate cost effectiveness at current prices.In recent weeks competitive bidding began in the US between rival manufacturers and prices are expected to fall as more agents come onto the market.

The new drugs have demonstrated high efficacy among people co-infected with HIV who were difficult to treat with earlier regimes. About a quarter of Australian people living with HIV are estimated to have hepatitis C and because co-infection tends to produce more rapid hepatitis C progression the new drugs are very welcome news. People who inject drugs also carry a significant burden of Hepatitis C in Australia and the new drugs will offer the possibility of much shorter and more tolerable treatment courses.

One way that European countries are dealing with the high costs of treatment is by limiting access to people with advanced liver disease. However, Swiss researchers today made the point that the best results are likely to be gained by treating people as early as possible, both in order to prevent disease progression and to reduce onward transmission.

When the drugs will be available for the estimated quarter-of-a-million Australians infected with hepatitis C is up to the federal government through the pharmaceutical benefits scheme.

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