This was a sponsored satellite symposium, held at the ASHM/Sexual Health conference. It consisted of a panel discussion which was chaired by Dr Norman Swan.
The question posted was- Can Australia be Hep C free by 2026? The short answer is....possibly.
Hep C eradication treatment started this year. 20,000 people have been treated and by the end of this year 45,000. The bulk are patients were keen for treatment. Currently 82% of people with Chronic Hep C in Australia, have been diagnosed. This leaves 22% diagnosed. There is a dis-proportionally higher prevalence in the indigenous and incarcerated populations.
Resistance to treatment
Concerns remain in co-infected patients, that eradication treatment is difficult or may impact their HIV.These concerns linger from previous Hep C eradication treatments. They don't translate to the new treatment.
There are some drug interactions between ART and Hep C eradication treatment, however these can be managed.
An attitude change in government, patients and health care providers is required, to identify the remaining 22% of undiagnosed patients. This is needed, as without a significant reduction in Hep C in the general population, reinfection may occur. Re-treatment will then be required, and should be offered.
Hep C resistance
This has already occurred and needs to be avoided. Ways to prevent resistance is discussing with the patient to determine if they can access and afford the medication, for the entire treatment course. A wavering of the cost of opioid replacement therapy, needle exchange in prisons, nurse practitioner to subscribe treatment and patient education on preventing reinfection, will also contribute to preventing resistance.
Take home message
The uptake of Hep C treatment has been fantastic. Limit the opportunity for resistance by reducing the opportunity for partial treatment. Educating patients on preventing re-infection. Identifying patients who may have Hep C but never tested.
If this treatment to work, then we (and the government) needs to approach this treatment, like the Small Pox Eradication Program.