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'Life changing' Hepatitis C treatment to be funded by Pharmac

Author
NZ Herald,
Section
Health,
Publish Date
Monday, 17 December 2018, 5:39p.m.
New drugs are set to be "life changing" for thousands of Kiwis. (Photo / 123RF)
New drugs are set to be "life changing" for thousands of Kiwis. (Photo / 123RF)

Thousands of Kiwis will have access to new "life-changing" medicines for both hepatitis C and a rare blood disorder.

Pharmac has announced it will fund the medicine Maviret, which can be prescribed to people with hepatitis C, regardless of the type of the virus they have.

The medicine authority Medsafe has also just approved Hemlibra to treat haemophilia, an inherited blood disorder which can cause spontaneous, fatal internal bleeding and excruciating arthritis-like symptoms.

Director of operations Lisa Williams said funding Maviret meant most people with hepatitis C would now have the opportunity to access a funded treatment that had the potential to cure the virus.

"In many instances, this treatment will avoid associated liver cancer, the need for a liver transplant or early death," Williams said.

About 3000 people had already accessed hepatitis C treatments Harvoni and Viekira Pak since Pharmac began funding them in 2016.

Maviret provided an option for those people who weren't able to access a funded treatment previously due to their genotype of hepatitis C, Williams said.

An estimated 50,000 people could benefit from the treatment, which would be available from February 1, 2019.

Otago University senior lecturer and consultant haematologist Dr Mark Smith said there were about 800 Kiwis living with haemophilia, and about 365 had the severe form haemophilia A, which put them at extreme risk of spontaneous internal bleeding.

Haemophilia could have a significant impact on the quality of life for those living with the condition as well as their families.

"The bleeding will often pool around the joints which can cause significant levels of pain - in the past this was often treated with morphine which severely impacted the ability to function and led to time off work or school," Dr Smith said.

"Haemophilia is often picked up at birth, the baby may be born with unusually severe bruising and then tested as a result."

The approval of the medicine Hemlibra for treating haemophilia was significant as it was the first new treatment for those living with this disease who showed an immunological rejection of factor VIII to be made available in New Zealand in the past 20 years.

 

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