Thursday, November 13, 2014

HSE-Some Hep C patients to get new drugs

Some Hep C patients to get new drugs
by Deborah Condon

Some patients with Hepatitis C are to be given early access to powerful new drugs, the Minister for Health has announced.

He said that the HSE is putting in place a programme to provide early access to new ‘direct-acting, antiviral drugs for hepatitis C patients with the greatest clinical need, due to the advanced nature of their condition'.

Around 120 patients are set to benefit from the move.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection of the liver. The main way it is spread is through contaminated blood, such as via a blood transfusion or by sharing needles with an infected person. It can also be spread by unprotected sex and can be passed from a mother to her baby.

It can lead to severe liver conditions. Of those who develop chronic hepatitis C, an estimated 30% will develop cirrhosis. Others will develop liver cancer, some of whom may require liver transplantation.

According to the Department of Health, the patients in question have been identified by clinical experts as suffering from ‘very serious liver disease' and they are seen as the most likely to ‘benefit substantially from this intervention'.

Similar early access programmes already exist in a number of other European countries.

The move follows ongoing negotiations with a number of drug companies. The HSE has already reached agreement with Gilead Sciences on the pricing of a number of drugs, including Sovaldi (sofosbuvir). Interim agreements have also been reached with Janssen and Bristol Myers Squibb in relation to two other new Hepatitis C drugs - Olysio (simeprevir) and Daklinza (daclatasvir).

"I am very pleased that we can commence the use of these new medicines in Ireland. These drugs have the potential to bring major benefits for patients with serious illness as a result of Hepatitis C. I also want to thank Gilead, Janssen and Bristol Myers Squibb for agreeing to enter into negotiations with the HSE and the Department of Health in the interests of these seriously ill patients," Minister Varadkar commented.

Meanwhile, the department has established an advisory group to consider its approach to the clinical and public health management of Hepatitis C. This group is expected to report to Minister Varadkar in the coming weeks and its recommendations ‘will inform decisions about extending access of these new drugs to further groups of patients'.

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