Envy over Australia’s egalitarian hep C approach

3 minute read

The ambitious move of offering universal access to hepatitis C drugs has put Australia well ahead of other countries


The ambitious move of offering universal access to hepatitis C drugs has put Australia well ahead of other developed nations, and patients in other countries are demanding the same access

While almost all countries in Europe and the US have restricted access to the expensive medication by a patient’s stage of liver disease, Australia has taken the opposite position, securing access to the drugs for 62,000 people already.

Kevin Marriott, acting CEO at Hepatitis Australia told TMR Australia was at the forefront of providing access to these life-changing medicines.

“At the time [Australia introduced the PBS listings], no other government was funding these medicines to all people living with hepatitis C in their country,” said Mr Marriott.

He said other countries had failed to take into account the long-term fiscal savings and health benefits of treating hepatitis C.

“Curing people is certainly more cost effective than having to fund services for people developing long-term, debilitating chronic infections,” he said.

According to an analysis by HIV and AIDS advocacy group NAM Aidsmap, Australia is currently treating as many people in one month as England is permitted to treat in three months.

While NHS England planned to treat 2,000 people in a three-month period from April, Australia treated at least 1,811 people in March, the group said.

NHS England is facing potential legal action over its rationing of hepatitis C medications from The Hepatitis C Trust, which said in May it was considering a judicial review.

NHS England said hepatitis C treatments presented a budgetary challenge, and they had “made the tough prioritisation choices necessary to free up funds to invest significantly in new treatments”.
“It’s clearly not possible for everyone to be treated immediately; notwithstanding the very high cost of the treatments, there are clinical and logistical limits on how quickly patients can be assessed, monitored and treated,” the government said in a release in March.

The Australian Government announced that it had negotiated a volume-based price agreement with pharmaceutical companies for hepatitis C medications in December 2015.

The plan will cost $1 billion over five years an average price per treatment of $16,129. By comparison, the estimated cost per treatment is £20,000 in England and $84,000-94,500 in the US, according to NAM Aidsmap.

The details of the Australian deal are not publicly available but the group reported that a rumored risk-sharing arrangement would further drive prices down.

“What might be achieved in the United Kingdom by a more ambitious approach […] is uncertain, but Australia’s example shows that setting an ambitious target and using government’s monopoly power as the only buyer of medicines can have dramatic effects on access to treatment,” said NAM Aidsmap.

The hepatitis C drugs recently listed on the PBS have an overall cure rate of above 90% in people without cirrhosis.

The drugs listed on the PBS include sofosbuvir/ledipasvir (Harvoni), sofosbuvir/daclatasvir (Sovaldi/Daklinza), sofosbuvir/ribavirin (Sovaldi/Ibavyr), ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir & dasabuvir (Viekira Pak) and ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir & dasabuvir with ribavirin (Viekira Pak-RBV).

There are an estimated 230,000 people with hepatitis C in Australia, of whom 75% have already been diagnosed.



End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×