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1500 New Zealanders access a cure for hepatitis C

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Over 1500 New Zealanders have started a new hepatitis C treatment in the last three months that could dramatically change their lives.

Since 1 February this year, anyone diagnosed with hepatitis C has become eligible to receive a PHARMAC funded medicine to treat Hepatitis C called Maviret.

Lyneese Dunshea, a 52-year-old Auckland mother of two, completed her 12-week course of Maviret last month. It has been life changing for her.

While suffering from hepatitis C, which she believes she contracted in the 80s, she had to take two naps a day, constantly felt exhausted and suffered from brain fog.

But within a week of starting treatment she started to feel better and now, a month after completing it, she says she no longer needs naps, her mind is clearer, and she has started training to become a mental health worker. She says that would have been impossible while she had hepatitis C.

"Life was an uphill battle, now I’m living," she says.

PHARMAC’s Chief Executive Sarah Fitt said it has been three months since the treatment became available, so 99% of people who started Maviret in February, will now potentially be cured of hepatitis C.

"That will be life changing for them and their families. People who are cured of hepatitis C are less likely to need ongoing visits to their GPs or hospital and are less likely to develop liver cancer or need a liver transplant."

Without PHARMAC funding, this medication can cost individuals tens of thousands of dollars.

"It is extremely exciting when a cure for a serious illness like hepatitis C comes along and we can make it available, affordable and accessible to New Zealanders," Sarah Fitt said.

The uptake of the medicine has been at expected levels, but PHARMAC is keen for more people to get tested for hepatitis C.

Hazel Heal, of Hep C Action Aotearoa agrees.

"I’ve seen so many people who had no idea they had it. It is really hard to tell. Some find out too late. This cure not only saved, it changed my life. I feel years younger, like there is less gravity holding me down. Get tested, you may be one of the lucky ones, like me"

There are estimated 50,000 people with hepatitis C in New Zealand, many of them undiagnosed.

"Three tablets a day for up to 12 weeks, is all it takes to prevent serious complications of liver disease developing. So, it makes sense for people who think they could have been exposed to hepatitis C infection to speak to their health professional about getting tested and, if they need it, get a treatment that is potentially a cure for 99% of people," Sarah Fitt said.

Last year PHARMAC funded 13 new medicines, including Maviret, and increased access to 39 other medicines, benefitting over 330,000 New Zealanders.

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