GESA MEDIA RELEASE

Tuesday 9 February 2016

ONGOING COLLABORATION KEY TO PRESCRIBING HEPATITIS C ANTI-VIRALS

The peak Australian body for the treatment of liver diseases – the Gastroenterological Society of Australia Australian Liver Association (GESA ALA) – reaffirms its ongoing collaboration with general practitioners in the treatment of hepatitis C.
 
Three new hepatitis C treatments* will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on 1 March 2016.
 
GESA ALA Chair, Associate Professor Amany Zekry, said “As specialists in liver disease we stand ready to support and work with our primary healthcare colleagues to ensure that Australians with hepatitis C receive timely and appropriate treatment”.
 
“A consensus statement and guidance to assist GPs in understanding the different treatment regimens will be available from 1 March at www.gesa.org.au. However, it is important to emphasise that consultation with a specialist in the treatment of hepatitis C remains a critical part of the prescribing process."
 
Some specialist centres have set up pathways to facilitate rapid consultations between GPs and local specialist centres. GESA ALA believes that developing pathways to facilitate consultations between GPs and specialists is essential to enable appropriate patient assessment and correct prescribing and to optimise patient outcomes.
 
Prior to antiviral therapy being prescribed for them, patients with hepatitis C need to be assessed to determine the extent of their underlying liver disease (cirrhotic versus non-cirrhotic), along with their genotype and treatment history, as treatment regimens will vary according to these factors.
 
Dr Zekry said that all prescribing decisions should be based on current guidelines. Deviating from evidence-based guidelines can potentially compromise care delivery and long-term outcomes, particularly in patients with liver cirrhosis.

Provided that s100 practitioners are confident assessing the extent of underlying liver disease (as stated in the Hep C Consensus Statement) GESA ALA supports  s100 practitioners treating HCV patients whilst referring those with liver cirrhosis to specialist centres for follow up and screening programs.
 
“Patients with liver cirrhosis remain at risk of liver failure and liver cancer even after they have been cleared of the virus so they require long-term follow-up”, Dr Zekry said.
 
GESA ALA is seeking investment in education programs to up-skill and support GPs in the management and treatment of patients with hepatitis C, and is in discussions with the Federal Department of Health to support a GP education program which will complement a GESA & National Prescribing Service educational module that is about to be released.

“We all want the best treatment and health outcomes for our patients, and we encourage GPs to work with specialists in hepatitis C to determine appropriate prescribing. “
 
“With the right pathways with the tertiary institute for patient assessment, a phone call or email between a GP and specialist experienced in the treatment of hepatitis C is all it takes to prescribe these new generation hepatitis C therapies. This is standard practice for a range of medications listed on the PBS”, Dr Zekry concluded.
 
In relation to accreditation GESA ALA’s view is that effective educational programs , and linkage with tertiary institutes and/or specialists experienced in managing hepatitis C, to support all GPs including those without experience in treating HCV, would be a more effective strategy in treating a large number of patients and ensuring equity of access.
 
GESA ALA welcomes questions or comments regarding assistance with prescribing and patient care.

Please email gesa@gesa.org.au  subject line 'Hep C treatments'.

Further information and tools for GPs will be available at www.gesa.org.au from March 2016.
 
* sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni), and daclatasvir (Daklinza)

Media Contact:
Fiona Beveridge: 0405 902 826 or
Fiona Bailey (GESA):  0411 120 817

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