New highly effective, low toxicity, direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment regimens for hepatitis C are available from today under the S85 General Schedule on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Doctors are reporting the approval process to be “very straightforward”, with four questions to be answered regarding the duration of treatment, patient’s genotype, cirrhotic status and whether the prescription is in line with the general statement on the authority form. All patients over 18 years of age with chronic HCV are eligible for treatment with many requiring only 12 weeks treatment duration.
More than 230,000 people are living with hepatitis C in Australia. For the majority, these new treatment will offer them cure. GPs and other medical practitioners will be able to prescribe these regimens under the S85 General Schedule in consultation with a specialist. The consultation can be by phone, mail, email or videoconference, and patients do not need to be seen by the specialist. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recognised the need to broaden access to treatment to reduce the burden of disease; therefore new DAAs will be available both on the General Schedule (‘Section 85’) and under the Section 100 (S100) Highly Specialised Drugs (HSD) Program.
Approved community pharmacists will be able to dispense these new medicines if a prescription is written under the S85 General Schedule. Scripts written under the S100 HSD arrangements by an eligible hospital prescriber can only be dispensed by a hospital pharmacy, but this listing will also enable access to treatment for those in custodial settings.
For further training, resources and support for GPs, nurses and other medical practitioners see the ASHM website www.ashm.org.au/courses or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For further details on the new treatments, see the factsheet for patients and consumers and frequently asked questions document prepared by the PBS.