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Question about Hepatitis C Treatments

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) to Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council, Dr Vanessa Goodwin

(1) At a Dare Shott lecture recently by Professor William Sievert whereby he stated that treatment of hepatitis C had improved dramatically and we now have new drugs that are well tolerated being taken for 12 or 24 weeks, with a cure rate of 90 per cent to 100 per cent, it was mentioned that a high number of inmates in our prisons are infected with hepatitis C.

(2) In view of this new treatment and the fact that it is highly curable in as short a time as 12 weeks or up to 24 weeks, are prisoners being given this improved treatment to reduce the number of people in our community with hepatitis C, and hopefully eliminate it?

Answer from Dr Goodwin

Mr President, I thank the member for Launceston for her question.

(1) On 1 March 2016, three treatments with direct-acting antiviral medications for chronic hepatitis C virus infection were newly subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. These can cure most people living with chronic hepatitis C.

(2) Treatment of prisoners is a priority to reduce the incidence of HCV transmission. The Australian Government has ensured that the new medications for hepatitis C are funded for people in prison. The Tasmanian Correctional Primary Health Service is screening, assessing and treating prisoners for hepatitis C across maximum security, minimum security and the women's prison. The Correctional Primary Health Service is also developing strategies to ensure follow up for people who may re-enter the community prior to treatment completion.

The Department of Health and Human Services, through Public Health Services, has established a collaborative working group to help coordinate approaches to treating viral hepatitis in Tasmania. Members of the group have developed and implemented clinical pathways for managing hepatitis C and streamlined the referral process for GPs to prescribe hepatitis C medications in consultation with a specialist.

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