29 Jul 2009

New hepatitis B medicine funded

8:49 pm on 29 July 2009

A new medicine to fight drug-resistant hepatitis B is good news for Maori, says a specialist from the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit in Auckland.

From 1 August, Pharmac is funding the medicine entecavir (Baraclude) as a first line treatment option for people with hepatitis B.

Hepatologist Ed Gane says Maori are six times more likely than Europeans to be affected by the viral infection, which can cause potentially fatal liver disease.

He told Waatea News the funding decision means Maori who have developed resistance to current antiviral treatments have another option.

Associate Professor Gane says about 200 people die each year from untreated hepatitis B, and better access to entecavir should reduce this number. He describes the drug as an enormous advance on what is currently available.

Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie says the newly funded drug has much lower rates of resistance, even after four years of treatment, than the currently-funded antiviral treatment