Transplant Australia today congratulated the Federal Government for its decision to list a new wave of Hepatitis C breakthrough medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.
Federal Health Minister, Sussan Ley, on Sunday announced that all Australians with Hepatitis C would obtain access to breakthrough cures that could all but eradicate the deadly and debilitating disease within a generation.
More than 230,500 Australians are living with the hepatitis C virus that damages the liver, leading to liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure. A total of 176 people are currently on the waiting list for a liver transplant.
Transplant specialist A/Prof Nick Shackel from the Australian National Liver Transplant program at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital has seen a steady increase in the disease attributable to Hepatitis C with in excess of 40 per cent of all those individuals receiving a liver transplant having either liver failure or liver cancer directly attributable to Hepatitis C.
Transplant Australia CEO, Chris Thomas, recognised that this decision was unique in that it actually could reduce pressure on transplant waiting lists.
“We know that as our population ages more and more people will require a transplant whether it is a heart transplant, kidney, lung or liver,” Mr Thomas said.
“There are not many ways we can stem the flow of people coming on to our transplant waiting lists. The growing pressure on transplant programs is immense with the total burden of diseases of the hearts, lungs, liver and kidney rising steadily. In particular kidney failure due to diabetes and obesity is increasing across all populations.
“But here is a decision which can actually have a positive impact on transplant waiting lists. Reducing the incidence of Hepatitis C in the community will have a profound effect on the individuals living with the disease while it will also reduce the flow-on impact on transplantation.
“And we should recognise that even those waiting a transplant will benefit. For some liver recipients, who have been transplanted because of their condition, Hepatitis C remains in their body. A course of these new drugs will eliminate Hepatitis C and give them a greater chance of keeping their transplant longer.”
Mr Thomas said the decision by Health Minister Ley was great news for all Hepatitis C sufferers.
“It comes at a time when we know our Health budgets are under intense fiscal restraint. Well done to the Turnbull Government and Health Minister Ley. This is a decision, which will profoundly reduce the long-term health costs associated with a debilitating disease. Members of Transplant Australia living with Hepatitis C will be especially pleased.
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