hepatitis-dayResearchers at the Kirby Institute at the University of NSW have released new recommendations that suggest the burden of liver disease could be dramatically reduced by increasing treatment for hepatitis C infection among people who inject drugs.

In collaboration with colleagues from the International Network on Hepatitis Care in Substance Users (INHSU), the Kirby Institute published the global recommendations online last week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases to help mark World Hepatitis Day last Sunday.

In Australia, 226,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis C and over 10,000 new cases are reported every year. Almost 80 per cent of all infections occur among people who inject drugs, with only one percent of those people currently receiving treatment.

Kirby Institute senior lecturer and co-lead author of the recommendations Dr Jason Grebely said treatment for hepatitis C infection among people who inject drugs remained unacceptably low.

“Clinicians have been hesitant to recommend treatment in this population because of a lack of understanding about how lifestyle factors may impede successful treatment,” Grebely said.

Unlike other types of hepatitis, there is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C and medication is the only way to manage the disease.

Hepatitis C can lead to serious complications such as liver failure or cancer, while ACON also believes up to 13 percent of all people living with HIV may also have hepatitis C and that co-infection remains a serious issue.

Health Minister Tanya Plibersek Health Minister announced the federal government will provide more than $220 million over five years to subsidise hepatitis C medications boceprevir (Victrelis) and telaprevir (Incivo) through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in February.

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