Friday, June 17, 2016

Kiwis chase overseas drugs to help battle Hepatitis C

Kiwis chase overseas drugs to help battle Hepatitis C
Last updated 05:00, June 18 2016

50,000 people have Hep C in New Zealand, but a recent Pharmac announcement about funding for two new drug treatments will not help all of them, CATE BROUGHTON writes.

Naomi Wickens lived with Hepatitis C (HVC) for 45 years, but was cured with a generic drug imported from India this year at a cost of $2500.

Wickens, 67, is one among many Kiwis forced to use generic drugs sourced from overseas to treat their condition.

This month, Pharmac announced it would fund two new hepatitis C treatments, Harvoni and Viekira Pakbut, but doctors say it will only help 50 per cent of those with the illness.

Pharmac's money will help patients with genotype 1 and a small number who are on death's door with severe liver failure, giving them hope for a healthy future.

But for 50 per cent of patients with other genotypes there is no celebrating.

"While it is good news for those with genotype 1 Hepatitis C, there is no funded Direct Acting Anti-Virals (DAAV) for people with the other strains so that's difficult for those patients," says hepatitis specialist Catherine Stedman.

Faced with this news many sufferers will do like Wickens and consider importing generic drugs produced in India, China or Bangladesh which they are legally entitled to do with a prescription from a New Zealand doctor.

However, in recent weeks, doctors who have prescribed drugs for HCV patients have been sent a warning letter and prescription form to complete from Medsafe about "unapproved" medications... 

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