Proactive approach urged in hepatitis testing and treatment

Health professionals in Western Australia are encouraged to educate and engage their patients in conversation about testing and treatment for viral hepatitis, including antiviral medicines that can cure hepatitis C.

Curative direct acting antiviral medications (DAAs) for treating the hepatitis C virus are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and can be prescribed by general practitioners. These medications require a shorter course of treatment and have far fewer side effects than previously available treatments.

However WA Health’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus program manager, Lisa Bastian, says many Western Australians living with hepatitis C have not yet taken the opportunity presented by recent treatment developments.

“Uptake of the new treatments was initially strong, with 8 per cent of people living with hepatitis C in Western Australia initiating the treatments within the first six months of them becoming available.

Since then uptake has slowed with only 16 per cent initiating the DAA hepatitis C treatments between March 2016 and June 2017.”

Western Australian man Steve Fragomeni was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2011 but is now hepatitis-free thanks to effective treatment. He encourages others living with hep C to educate themselves about available treatment and discuss options with trusted health professionals.

Health professionals are also being urged to raise awareness of hepatitis B prevention, testing and management.

Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable, although if acquired it can be managed effectively with regular GP monitoring every 6-12 months and medication that can reduce the progression of liver disease.

This Hepatitis Awareness Week, all health professionals are urged to contribute to the global goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health issue by 2030.

Hepatitis Awareness Week runs 23-28 July, culminating in World Hepatitis Day on the 28 July.  Learn more at Hepatitis WA (external site).