Sydney, Australia, 1 June 2017
The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) welcomes the change to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which allow nurse practitioners to prescribe direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medicines for the treatment of hepatitis C.
The General Statement for Drugs for the Treatment of Hepatitis C now includes [that patients wanting to initiate treatment]:
Must be treated by a medical practitioner or an authorised nurse practitioner experienced in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection; or in consultation with a gastroenterologist, hepatologist or infectious diseases physician experienced in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection.
This change will enable increased capacity for nurse practitioners to enhance the level of care they provide to their patients and clients living with hepatitis C.
"This change recognises the advanced level skills of nurse practitioners and their vital role within the nursing profession, multidisciplinary teams and our broader health care system", said Levinia Crooks Chief Executive Officer of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine which led the submission to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to enable nurse practitioners to prescribe hepatitis C treatment.
Dr Grainne Lowe - President of Australian College of Nurse Practitioners
"This is a progressive step in improving timely access and delivery of services, including medications, for people living with hepatitis C. Nurse Practitioners are ideally placed to support this access and have the skills and knowledge to assess, diagnose and prescribe these medications." The Australian College of Nurse Practitioners fully supports this decision and will continue to work with government and industry to improve access to healthcare for all Australians."
Nurse Practitioners welcome the change
Mary Fenech, a nurse practitioner in hepatology, welcomes the change that will impact her practice directly:
"As a nurse practitioner, I will continue to work collaboratively with a Medical Consultant in my area of practice, specifically a gastroenterologist/hepatologist. However, this change affords me greater flexibility to prescribe DAA treatment to specific target populations," says Ms Fenech, who provides outreach services via QuIHN (the Queensland Injectors Health Network).
"By providing a positive experience of treatment with DAAs, I can encourage this vulnerable population to engage with further healthcare services to manage their ongoing health and co-morbidities – ultimately reducing the predicted burden of morbidity and mortality associated with untreated liver disease."
"By working alongside the client's primary carer, I will be able to facilitate access to services which provide harm minimisation as well as ongoing monitoring in advanced liver disease. This completes the full circle of the episode of care for the client with whom I have developed a therapeutic relationship."
Tracey Jones—Hepatology Nurse Practitioner, from New South Wales
"It will enhance the scope and autonomous nature of the role of the nurse practitioner by enabling us to provide full assessment, management, treatment and ongoing care of the patient. For some patients this will mean streamlining their care and significantly reducing waiting times as well as expanding the number of treatment access points within the community.
Prescribing DAAs will mean that patients who have been known to the nurse practitioner for some time can have continuity of care."
Nurse Practitioner, from Western Australia
"This change will enable me to include treatment as part of the community model, creating a point of connectedness between the client and health professional. It will minimise the time taken for someone to commence hepatitis C treatment in our community-based hepatitis C treatment program, which has the potential to improve patient and public health outcomes.
Treatment in our community setting can be done in a safe, supportive and familiar environment for our patients – it reduces the effects of 'felt' stigmatisation, and improves the patient's overall quality of life."
General Statement for Drugs for the Treatment of Hepatitis C
 Medicines for the treatment of hepatitis C are listed for prescribing by authorised nurse practitioners under the General Schedule only. Medicines for the treatment of hepatitis C are not listed for prescribing by authorised nurse practitioners under the S100 Highly Specialised Drugs Program.
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Media Release - PBAC Announcement on Nurses Practitioner Eligibility for DAA Prescribing - 1 June 2017
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The Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) is a peak organisation of health professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections (STIs). ASHM draws on its experience and expertise to support the health workforce and to contribute to the sector, domestically and internationally.