28 July 2016
NSW Health today marked World Hepatitis Day by encouraging people living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection to access newly available treatments with cure rates of more than 90 per cent.

Dr Jo Mitchell, Executive Director, Centre for Population Health, NSW Health, said the highly effective, direct-acting antivirals for the treatment of hepatitis C are now affordable after recently being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

“These treatments have the potential to greatly reduce HCV transmission in the community,” said Dr Mitchell.

“Where it is recommended, adults living with hepatitis C can now access these medications that have few side effects. Also, the assessment process is far simpler and much less invasive than it used to be – there is no need for a liver biopsy.

Dr Mitchell will today address a World Hepatitis Day event held in partnership with Hepatitis NSW in Surry Hills to raise public awareness of hepatitis B and C during NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week, held from 25-31 July 2016.

“These treatments have a very high cure rate of greater than 90 per cent for most genotypes. The majority of people require 12 weeks of treatment, compared with up to 48 weeks for the previous, interferon-based therapies, which involved oral tablets and injections and had a cure rate varying from 40 to 90 per cent, depending on HCV genotype,” said Dr Mitchell.

“Due to the severity of side effects from previous medications, patients found it difficult to complete treatment.

“Hepatitis B and C are among the leading causes of primary liver cancer and a common reason for liver transplantation. NSW Health is working hard to reach people who are most at risk of acquiring, or most affected by, viral hepatitis, and improve their health outcomes.”

A key direction of NSW Health’s NSW Hepatitis B Strategy 2014-2020 and NSW Hepatitis C Strategy 2014-2020, launched in 2014, was to provide more accessible treatment and prevention services for priority at-risk populations.

This year’s World Hepatitis Day theme is “Elimination”, marking a commitment to eradicate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.

For more information on hepatitis, visit https://www.hep.org.au/​ or contact the Hepatitis NSW Infoline: 1800 803 990. For more information on the NSW Health Hepatitis B and C Strategies 2014-2010, visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/hepatitis

Key Facts

Hepatitis C

  • ​In 2014, an estimated 230,470 individuals were living with chronic HCV in Australia, including, 81,940 individuals in NSW.
  • An estimated 690 deaths attributable to chronic hepatitis C infection occurred in 2014 in Australia.
  • Of 224 people who had a liver transplant in 2014 in Australia, 81 (36%) had hepatitis C infection.
  • About 90% of new infections are attributable to injecting drug use with unsterile injecting equipment.

Hepatitis B

  • At the end of 2014, an estimated 213,300 people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection in Australia.
  • It is estimated that more than 77,000 NSW residents have hepatitis B and that the number of people with chronic infection is growing.
  • An estimated 395 deaths attributable to chronic hepatitis B infection occurred in 2014 in Australia.
Sources: The Kirby Institute’s Annual Surveillance Report 2015 - HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia and NSW Hepatitis B Strategy 2014-2020
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