'Jubilant' over drug funding

Hazel Heal
Hazel Heal
Dunedin hepatitis C campaigner Hazel Heal has received an early Christmas present: news Government drug-buying agency Pharmac will make medicine available to all people with the liver disease.

About 43% of hepatitis C patients were previously unable to take the Pharmac-funded drugs.

Ms Heal and other campaigners have been fighting for years for ''pangenotypic'' medicine to be funded, so all people with the disease could receive affordable treatment.

In October Pharmac said any decision about funding for pangenohtypic drugs would not be made until next year.

However, the agency unexpectedly accelerated the process and on Monday confirmed a new medicine, Maviret, would be funded from February next year.

''We are jubilant,'' Ms Heal, a Hep C Action Aotearoa advocate, said.

''Now the focus needs to shift to more funding for testing.''

HCAA estimates about 30,000 New Zealanders have hepatitis C but have not been diagnosed with the disease.

Hepatitis C has several symptoms, including nausea, abdominal pains, fatigue, rashes, joint pains and headaches.

However, the symptoms generally manifest slowly and are often put down to other factors.

''I have seen so many people who have no idea how they got it, had no risk factors - they may not find out until they are seriously ill,'' Ms Heal said.

''We are a small country and have the flexibility to do this the smart way: let's get on with it.''

Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams said funding Maviret would make a real difference to New Zealanders' wellbeing.

''It's estimated that 50,000 people could benefit from this newly funded treatment,'' she said.

mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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