You may have read recently that health experts in the US are concerned that the health gains made by treating people with hep C will be lost because this group is three times more likely to be smokers. While we don’t have any figures about how many people with hepatitis C smoke here in Australia, we do know from personal experience that there are many smokers among people who’ve been treated.
Thousands of South Australians are missing out on life-saving treatment that can stop serious liver disease, simply because they don’t know about new treatments or are too afraid to ask.
Taking every dose of your direct-acting antiviral gives you the best chance of a cure. Because many of these drugs are new, it’s not yet clear how missed doses may affect the success of your treatment, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and try not to miss any dose.
Remembering every dose can be difficult even when motivation is high and the treatment course short, as is the case for most people on the new hepatitis C medicines. The information that came with your drug should advise you on what to do if you do miss a dose and whether you should take it later or skip it.
The prevalence of hepatitis C and hepatitis B in Australian prisons is higher than in in the wider community, but prison settings also present and opportunity for testing, monitoring and treatment, especially for hepatitis C since the introduction of new, highly effective drugs that has shortened treatment time dramatically.
Up to 40 per cent of prisoners have hepatitis C, compared to only one per cent in the wider community, and three to four per cent of prisoners have hepatitis B, compared to just under one per cent in the wider South Australian community.
One of the key planks of Australia’s hepatitis C elimination strategy is increasing treatment through management by General Practitioners (GPs), making it easier for individuals to receive treatment and facilitating access to hard-to-reach communities.
GP training programs have been rolled out across the country and GP prescribing had increased from 8 per cent in March to 31 per cent in December. However, most prescribing (62 per cent) are still by specialists and GP prescriptions in South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT and Victoria are significantly below average.
In the ten minutes it took you to brew your morning cuppa and dunk your favourite bikkie, 25 people died. They were killed by viral hepatitis – part of the 152 people around the world, who die every hour from this treatable, preventable disease.
Locally, about 24 Australians die each week from hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Not as shocking as 25 in 10 minutes but that’s still 1,237 needless Australian deaths each year.
World Hepatitis Day (28 July) is a reminder that Australians cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Although 14 per cent of Australians with hepatitis C have been cured, there are still many, many who need to receive treatment.