The Major Barrier to Hepatitis C Treatment in NZ

8731 Doctor   Patient Male
8731 Doctor Patient Male

major barrier to Hepatitis C treatment for New Zealanders is that they are unaware of their infection, or the diagnosis is delayed until liver disease is advanced by which time the treatment is less effective.

The Ministry of Health has work in progress for improving hepatitis treatment services in New Zealand.  Ways to better ensure early diagnosis and early intervention is one of a number of focal improvements.

New drugs are already producing significantly improved cure rates.

A factor in this early diagnosis is helping lift GP awareness that hepatitis C could be the cause of symptoms they see in their patients.

And for the public, events such as World Hepatitis Day provide a chance to inform people of some of the risk factors that they could have in their earlier life have been exposed to.

If someone thinks they may have ever been at risk for hepatitis C, then he or she should asked their GP for a HCV antibody test. Earlier diagnosis will allow lifestyle changes which in themselves may improve quality of life and prevent disease progression to cirrhosis and life-threatening complications. Effective treatment is available and fully funded by PHARMAC.

There are currently estimated to be around 30,000 to 50,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C in New Zealand.  Yet, only 20 percent have been diagnosed and five percent have accessed treatment.   

The primary population groups with hepatitis C are past and present injecting drug users (IDU) who make up 60 percent of the hepatitis C population.  Other key groups include prison populations, people with hemophilia, people who have been exposed to unsafe tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture practices, and people who have received healthcare in a developing country.  Up to 20 percent of people infected with hepatitis C will not have any of these risk factors.