curing hep c
Treatment is now more than 95% effective at curing hep C.
Most people can get a prescription from their GP.
It is low cost for people who have a Medicare Card.
New medicines are now available to cure hep C. They are easy to take with as little as one tablet a day, no injections and most people experience few to no side effects.
The new medicines, known as direct-acting antivirals (or DAAs) are very effective for most people who take them. The medicines are taken orally as tablets with most medicines only requiring one tablet each day. In most cases you only need to take the tablets for 8 to 12 weeks.
Which medicines your doctor prescribes for you, and how long you take them for, may depend on whether you have developed cirrhosis (or severe liver scarring) [i].
who can get cured?
Anyone over the age of 18 with a Medicare card can get the medicines at low cost [i].
You should not take DAA medicines if you are pregnant. You should talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and have hep C [ii].
It is important you take your medicines every day for the cure to be effective. If you ﬁnd it difﬁcult to do this, you should talk to your doctor so they can help you put a plan in place.
where can i get treatment?
Your usual GP can now prescribe the new DAA medicines to cure hep C , but they may seek advice from a specialist if they do not have a lot of experience with treating hep C.
In some cases, you will need to see a specialist to get treatment because of other health problems.
Your GP may refer you to a specialist if you:
also have another blood borne virus, such as hepatitis B or HIV;
have previously had DAA treatment for hep C;
have end stage renal (kidney) disease.
do the new medicines for hep c have side effects?
All medicines can have side-effects and each person’s experience will be different. The new DAA medicines have far fewer side effects than the older medicines. If you do experience side-effects they may include fatigue, headache, insomnia and nausea, but they are uncommon and typically mild. Please discuss possible side effects with your doctor [iv].
What medicines are used to cure hep C?
The following DAA medicines are currently used in Australia to cure hep C:
Epclusa® (sofosbuvir + velpatasvir)
Harvoni® (sofosbuvir + ledipasvir)
Zepatier® (elbasvir + grazoprevir)
VOSEVI® (sofosbuvir + velpatasvir + voxilaprevir). Only used if previous DAA treatment has failed [iv].
How much do the medicines cost?
The new medicines to cure hep C are available through the Pharmaceutical Beneﬁts Scheme (PBS) to people over the age of 18 who hold an Australian Medicare card. You will pay no more than $41 for each script, or less than $7 if you have a concession card. This amount is adjusted each year on 1 January, so these amounts are correct for 2019.
You will still need to pay the consultation fee unless your doctor bulk bills.
How will I know if I’ve been cured?
Being cured of hep C means that treatment has worked, and you no longer have the hep C virus. To check this your doctor will order an RNA test 12 weeks after you have ﬁnished treatment and if the results show ‘virus undetectable’ (no virus) this means you have been cured. It is important to have this ﬁnal test and not assume you are cured until the results conﬁrm it.
If you have not been cured of hep C after the initial course of medicine the doctor may recommend a second course of treatment, usually with different medicines.
Once you have been cured of hep C, you will always have antibodies. Having hep C antibodies does not mean you still have hep C—this can only be determined with an RNA test [v].
Last review: September 2019
For more information on hep C treatment, you can contact the National Hepatitis Info Line on 1800 437 222.
i. Department of Health. (2019, April 1). General Statement for Drugs for the Treatment of Hepatitis C. Retrieved from Pharmaceutical Beneﬁts Scheme: www.pbs.gov.au/info/healthpro/explanatory-notes/general-statement-hep-c
ii. RANZCOG. (2016, July). Management of Hepatitis C in pregnancy. Retrieved from RANZCOG: www.ranzcog.edu.au/Statements-Guidelines
iii. GESA. (2018, September). Clinical guidance for treating hepatitis C virus infection: a summary. Retrieved from Hep C Guidelines: www.hepcguidelines.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/GP-algorithm-v6-Sep-2018-1.pdf
iv. Khoo, A., & Tse, E. (2016). A practical overview of the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Australian Family Physician, pp. 718-720.
v. ASHM. (2019, June). Testing for Hep C. Retrieved from Vimeo: vimeo.com/341923881 Images used are stock photos and the associated messaging may not represent the personal situation, views or beliefs of the people in the images.