Hepatitis C

Work in progress for improving hepatitis treatment services in New Zealand.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver and can lead to cancer.

Hepatitis C affects approximately 50,000 New Zealanders with an estimated 3,000 of these treated over the past three years with PHARMAC-funded Harvoni and Viekira Pak and another approximately 2,000 treated with direct-acting antiviral treatments provided through clinical trials.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 people do not know they have hepatitis C, with about 1,000 new cases each year. Untreated, up to 20–25% will develop cirrhosis. Without successful treatment, 2–5% of those with cirrhosis will progress to life-threatening liver cancer or liver failure every year.

About half of all liver transplants in New Zealand are for people affected by Hepatitis C.

The World Health Organization estimates there are 71 million people affected by Hepatitis C around the world. For more details refer to their Hepatitic C factsheet.

People at risk of hepatitis C include those who have:

  • ever injected drugs
  • ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment
  • had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • ever lived or received medical treatment in a high risk country
  • ever been in prison
  • been born to a mother with hepatitis C.

For more details on the symptoms, treatment and prevention refer to Hepatitis C.

Decision to fund a new hepatitis C treatment

The Ministry welcomes the news from PHARMAC about the funding of a new treatment for people with hepatitis C to commence from 1 February 2019.

This treatment is a potential cure for people with chronic hepatitis C infection regardless of the type or genotype.

This is a positive development for people with hepatitis C as it increases access to people who would benefit from this new pangenotypic treatment who may not be able to benefit from the previously funded treatments. Refer to the PHARMAC website for further details about the new treatment (Maviret) and for information for people with hepatitis C, for prescribers and for pharmacists.

The Ministry has begun work on the development of a draft National Hepatitis C Action Plan that is part of our work plan for 2018/19. The Ministry has also been working in partnership with the Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand and the Health Promotion Agency on a national hepatitis C campaign. DHB regions have been revising the delivery of hepatitis C services by integrating service delivery across primary and secondary care. More information about all of these developments is outlined in the following pages.

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