In March 2016 a number of direct acting antiviral medications for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection were made available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. These medications are highly effective, curing over 95 percent of those treated, have little or no adverse side effects and are easily self-administered. General practitioners are now able to directly provide hepatitis C treatment to their patients.
In the two years since, it is estimated that a nearly a quarter of the 48,000 Queenslanders predicted to be living with hepatitis C in 2016 have been treated. However, the majority of patients were treated in the first six months following the PBS listing of the direct acting antivirals.
The number of patients treated in Queensland has since declined considerably. There needs to be a significant push to identify and treat those living with chronic hepatitis C to meet the goal of treating 50 per cent of Queenslanders living with hepatitis C by 2021. Addressing the shortfall in hepatitis C treatment uptake requires a more active approach to treatment provision by primary health care providers.
What can you do?
Your practice can review patient records to identify those patients who are living with hepatitis C and recall them for assessment and treatment.
What are the referral options?
Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay
Within the Sunshine and Wide Bay regions of the PHN, patients can be treated in conjunction with the Hepatology Partnership, a multidisciplinary outreach service based in both the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay regions, delivering hepatitis C treatment in partnership with general practitioners.
General practitioners can make referrals to this service via the normal referral portal or by contacting the Hepatology Partnership specialist nurses on 0438 067 497 (Wide Bay) or 0408 405 440 (Sunshine Coast).
Complex patients can be discussed with Hepatologists, Dr Jonathan Mitchell, or Professor James O’Beirne via the hospital switchboard (5202 0000). This route should be used for general enquiries only as treatment recommendations will not normally be offered over the telephone.
In Central Queensland general practitioners can make referrals via the normal referral portal or by contacting the Blood Borne Virus and Sexual Health Service on 4932 5447.
If you require any further information in relation to this matter, please contact Robert Kemp, Principal Public Health Officer, Communicable Diseases Branch, Department of Health, on telephone 3328 9800 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.