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New Hepatitis C Medicines Available on the PBS - Questions and Answers

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

On 20 December 2015 Health Minister, Hon Sussan Ley announced that the new hepatitis C treatments will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 March 2016.

Hepatitis WA Logo
HepatitisWA is a community based organisation which provides a range of services to the community in response to viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis A, B and C.

Here are HepatitisWA's answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the new Hepatitis C treatment to help provide an accurate picture for the community.

Q. When will the new medicines be available to Australians?

A. The new medicines will available on the PBS from 1 March 2016.

Q.  Are the new medicines better than the older ones?

A. There are a number of benefits. The new medicines -
  • are more effective resulting in a cure for 90% of people
  • are taken as tablets only and have very few side effects
  • can be taken for as little as 8-12 weeks for most people
  • do not require the use of peg-interferon as part of the regimen.

Q. Are they available from GPs?

A. The government has said that GPs will be able to prescribe these medicines in consultation with a specialist. Specialists will also be able to prescribe the new medicines.

Q. Do you have to be very sick to access the new medicines?

A. No. Everyone over the age of 18 who has been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C infection will be eligible to receive the new medicines regardless of their stage of disease.

Q. Will access to the new medicines be restricted or limited in any way?

A. No. The new medicines will be available through the PBS to all adults (>18) who hold a Medicare card and have chronic hepatitis C - regardless of their stage of liver disease.  The particular combination of medicines prescribed will depend on a number of individual clinical factors. Interferon-free treatment options will be available for all major genotypes in Australia.

Q. Will people who currently inject drugs be able to access the new medicines?

A. Yes. There will be no restrictions applied for people who inject drugs as they are a priority population for hepatitis C treatment.

Q. Will people in prison be able to access the new medicines?

A. Yes. It is usually a state and territory responsibility to fund the health care of people in custodial settings, however the Australian Government has agreed to fund the treatment of prisoners as they are a priority population for hepatitis C. 

Q. How much will the medicines cost me?

A. Once the PBS listing takes effect on 1 March 2016, you will only be charged the usual co-payment price you pay for a prescription. From 1 January 2016 this is $38.30 for general patients and $6.20 for concessional patients.

Q. What are the names of the new medicines?

A. The medicines being made available on the PBS from 1 March 2016 are:
  • sofosbuvir and ledipasvir (Harvoni®)
  • sofosbuvir (Sovaldi®)
  • daclatasvir (Daklinza®)
  • ribavirin (Ibavyr®)

Q. Will other medicines be listed?

A. There are other medicines currently being considered for PBS listing.

Q. Where can I get further information?

A. You can talk to your GP or call the National Hepatitis Information line 1800 437 222.

More Information and Support

General Practitioners (GPs) will now be able to prescribe these Hepatitis C treatments and Hepatitis WA encourages people to discuss the new treatments with a GP.

For more information and support, please contact HepatitisWA, or make an appointment to call by and talk with an appropriate member of staff. Call (08) 9328 8538 or 1800 800 070 (FREECALL within WA outside Perth metro area) or email info@hepatitiswa.com.au.

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