21 November 2016
New wonder drugs achieving 90%+ cure rates in
hepatitis C are now available to people living in the Midland health region
supported, from 1 January 2017, by a region-wide integrated service.
Funding for two Direct Acting Antiviral
pharmaceuticals was approved by Pharmac in May 2016 and HealthShare (the
regional shared services agency of the Midland DHBs) today announced a new
integrated service which will see the drugs and treatment available to people
across the region.
Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus spread through
blood-to-blood contact. The infection leads to inflammation of the liver. There
is currently no vaccine to prevent HCV infection, however the discovery of
Direct Action Antiviral pharmaceuticals is seeing a cure in more than 90% of
the eligible people receiving treatment.
HealthShare CEO, Andrew Campbell-Stokes said the
drugs’ discovery and availability is an important and exciting development for
patients with the disease and for general practice.
“Hepatitis C services are currently provided by
the Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand across the Midland region and this
service will remain until 31 December 2016.
“From 1 January 2017 a regionally coordinated
hepatitis C service within a pathway of care will be available across the five
Midland DHBs providing seamless services across primary, secondary and clinical
Andrew Campbell-Stokes said the new service will
integrate a range of support services for people affected or suspected of
carrying Hepatitis C from first diagnosis through to a liver elastography scan,
such as a Fibroscan, lifestyle education and possible treatment.
Currently each of these services is available to
people across the region but the new service will integrate them so the
transition from one to the other is seamless and delivered in local communities
with GPs as the lead carer.
The Waikato DHB was today named as the provider
of the new integrated Hepatitis C service and Dr. Frank Weilert (Gastroenterologist
and spokesperson for Waikato DHB) said the Waikato DHB will coordinate the
current services provided to the Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Tairāwhiti, Taranaki and
“The new integrated service will see Waikato DHB
partner with the Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand to utilize a mobile
scanner and deliver a localized service around the region.”
Dr. Weilert said people will be identified through community providers and
encouraged to enroll with a general practice which will then refer them into a
Midland regional coordinating centre, based at Waikato Regional Hospital, for
“The new coordinating centre will remove access
barriers and disparities making it easier for more people to access the new
“The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand will provide a mobile service to enable
clinics in the Bay of Plenty (eg. Whakatane, Tauranga), Tairāwhiti (Gisborne),
Taranaki (New Plymouth), Lakes (eg Rotorua and Taupo) as well as for more rural
areas in Waikato (eg Taumarunui, Tokoroa and Thames districts). The frequency
of clinics will depend on the number of patients and those requiring faster
access to treatment can be referred to Waikato Hospital. Waikato currently has
a fixed (not mobile) Fibroscan, so Waikato patients living close to Hamilton will be able to access Waikato Hospital
for their assessment and treatment.
“Once assessment and education has occurred the
patient, if eligible, will be referred to the appropriate DHB or general
practice for the new drug treatments.
The new integrated service will
Dr Weilert said how people
contracted Hepatitis C is not important. “What is important is that if you
think you meet some of the risk factors, you need to contact your general
practice or community provider to get tested.”
Hepatitis C facts
Around 50,000 people have chronic hepatitis C in
New Zealand with only 50 per cent aware they have the virus. Between 60 per
cent and 70 per cent of those infected with chronic hepatitis C go on to
develop chronic liver disease.
Acute hepatitis C occurs when a person is
infected with the hepatitis C virus for less than six months. Chronic hepatitis
C is a long-term infection which lasts more than six months. Most hepatitis C
infections become chronic.
The virus causes inflammation of the liver, which
affects the way the liver works. The liver is a very important organ which does
many tasks essential for life and growth. If left untreated, hepatitis C can
result in cirrhosis, which stops the liver working properly. Liver damage can
also lead to liver cancer or liver failure.
Many people with hepatitis C have no symptoms. It
is often referred to as the ‘silent epidemic’
because it’s common for people not to notice any symptoms until 20 or 30 years
after infection. However, symptoms that do appear are usually mild and
non-specific. The most common symptoms include:
Loss of appetite
- Hepatitis C is spread through blood-to-blood
contact. It is highly infectious and can survive outside the body for more than
seven days. Those most at risk of hepatitis C are people who:
- Have injected drugs (even if only once)
Have received a tattoo or body piercing using
Lived or received medical attention in a
high-risk country (South East Asia, China, Eastern Europe (including Russia),
or the Middle East)
Had a blood transfusion or received blood
products prior to 1992
Have ever been in prison
Were born to a mother living with hepatitis C.