Minister for Health Sussan Ley during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015.
Minister for Health Sussan Ley during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. AAP Image - Mick Tsikas

Federal Government offers $1 billion to eradicate Hep C

HEPATITIS C leads to about 700 Australian deaths every year and the Federal Government has announced $1 billion worth of subsidies in a bid to eradicate it.

Health Minister Sussan Ley announced the funding would ensure drug combinations to treat hepatitis C would be available to patients through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from March next year.

Cures currently cost patients up to $100,000 but under the PBS, patients will pay the normal co-payment for hepatitis C medicines.

For concessional patients, the co-payment is $6.10 and for general patients $37.70.

Ms Ley said Australia was one of the first in the world to subsidise the cures for all hepatitis C patients.

"More than 230,000 Australians are estimated to be currently living with hepatitis C," Ms Ley said.

"That's essentially one in every 100 Australians and they come from all walks of life," she said.

She said about 10,000 additional Australians were diagnosed every year and deaths from liver cancer, for which untreated hepatitis C is a major driver, were rising faster than any other cancer.

Ms Ley hoped the subsidies would eventually eradicate hepatitis C.

Hepatitis Australia chief executive Helen Tyrrell welcomed the move and said improved access to needle and syringe programs and new treatments would help eliminate the concerns surrounding the disease within a generation.

Every month about 250 people with hepatitis C develop serious and potentially life-threatening liver disease or liver cancer.

Ms Ley said the combination of breakthrough cures for hepatitis C had a success rate of more than 90%.

In most cases, medicines were taken orally for eight to 12 weeks, Ms Ley said.

Shadow health minister Catherine King welcomed the announcement to put the drugs on the PBS but she said patients should not have to wait another three months to access the drugs.

The hepatitis medicines to be included on the PBS include: Sofosbuvir with ledipasvir (Harvoni); Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi); Daclatasvir (Daklinza); and Ribavirin (Ibavyr).

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