Auckland, July 28, 2018
Today (Saturday, July 28) is World Hepatitis Day.
The Drug and Alcohol Practitioners Association of Aotearoa New Zealand has proposed a new PHARMAC proposal, which, it says, would change the lives of New Zealanders with Hepatitis C, many of who have no funded access to the modern anti-viral drugs they need.
Association Executive Director Sue Paton said that while new antivirals, which PHARMAC began funding in 2016, helped many people with Genotype 1 Hepatitis C, they were not available to people with other genotypes unless they were diagnosed as having severe liver disease.
“The 2016 antivirals, known as Viekira Pak and Harvoni, are much better than existing treatments such as interferon. They lead to a complete cure in the vast majority of cases and have few side-effects – unlike interferon, which many say has side effects that are worse than the disease, and which is often ineffective,” she said.
According to her, about 43% of people with Hepatitis C in New Zealand have Interferon as their only option.
“It has been bitterly disappointing for them that they can’t access and effective treatment until they are in danger of dying,” she said.
Funding for Maviret
PHARMAC is proposing that the antivirals Glecaprevir and Pibrentasvir (known as Maviret) would be funded in the community and DHB hospitals without restrictions for patients with chronic hepatitis C. The funding start date has not yet been determined, but it would be no earlier than October 2018.
“This is fantastic news for the 21,000 (both diagnosed and undiagnosed) New Zealanders with hepatitis C who cannot benefit from the currently funded treatments. You can only imagine what hope it would bring them,” Ms Paton said.
“However, there are at least 1000 new cases of hepatitis C each year. Having more people cured of this disease would see that number reduce considerably, so this is great news for all New Zealanders as well.”
PHARMAC is seeking feedback on its proposal to fund Maviret and on its proposed methods of distribution, which would include availability through eligible pharmacies for people with hepatitis C who have a prescription.
The proposal is available online at https://www.pharmac.govt.nz/news/consultation-2018-07-20-hep-c-glecaprevir-pibrentasvir/ and feedback is requested by August 13, 2018.