1 Oct 2016

GPs can now prescribe new Hep C drug

2:59 pm on 1 October 2016

The availability of a new drug is a huge step towards eliminating hepatitis C in New Zealand, the Hepatitis Foundation says.

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Photo: 123rf

From today, the drug Viekira Pak will be fully funded by Pharmac.

Viekira Pak had been listed since 1 July, but with a restriction limiting access to funded treatment to infectious disease specialists, gastroenterologists and hepatologists.

This restriction has been lifted from today, meaning that any relevant prescriber will be able to access full funding for the drugs.

Hepatitis specialist Ed Gane said the treatment used previously, which involved weekly injections, had such bad side-effects that almost 20 percent of patients stopped using it.

But he said Viekira Pak had much better outcomes.

"It is a very safe and effective treatment. It's only 12 weeks duration and tablets - no need for injection, very well tolerated and has cure rates of between 95 and 100 percent."

The foundation believes the new drug will be a game changer in treating the disease, as it has a success rate of more than 95 percent.

The foundation estimates 50,000 New Zealanders are infected with hepatitis C.

Dr Gane said the ability of GPs to treat patients with Viekira Pak is a significant first step towards eradicating Hepatitis C from the country by 2030.

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