All posts by Hazel Heal

Hep C treatment for all is here.


Hep C Action Aotearoa is jubilant that a treatment that works for all types has been approved, available from 1 February 2019.

With treatment soon available, the focus shifts to testing and awareness. HCAA is backing the policy shift from testing on a risk factor basis, to encouraging everyone to get tested, at least once. More and more studies are showing that targeted testing is missing too many people for elimination of the virus to be realistic by the World Health Organisation target of 2030. New Zealand has about 30,000 people undiagnosed, and likely to be unaware that health problems they are experiencing are hep C related.

Hep C Action contributor Dr James Freeman has cured thousands of HCV patients worldwide. He explains why screening everyone is a good idea for patients and our health system:

“Hep C has quite a lot of symptoms, but they appear slowly and can often be put down to other things like “getting old” – here are a few of the symptoms:

• Nausea, abdominal pains, weight loss
• Fatigue, brain fog, cognitive difficulties
• Skin irritations, rashes, itching
• Joint pains, headaches”

The global infection rate is about 1%. This a treatable disease can cut 5+ years off the average patient’s lifetime in addition to the reduced quality of life for many years before that.

Here are some recent articles that suggest one-time population testing is cost-effective in health economics terms:

For individuals, there is a lot of logic in getting screened one time. If you have the disease, get treated, if not stop worrying. It’s not a lot different to screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, bowel cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, etc. Most people that get screened don’t have a problem. Some do, and by finding the problem early you can often fix it and prevent the long-term consequences”.

Hep C Action is calling for elimination by 2025, ahead of the international target.

“We are a small country and have the flexibility to do this the smart way. Let’s get on with it. Ask your doctor for a test”, says HCAA advocate and survivor Hazel Heal.

“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”

New Zealand, world leader in HCV research, is finally on track towards elimination

Our team is over the moon that treatment for all genotypes have been available since 1 February 2019. Simplifying access means we can now concentrate on awareness, reducing stigma, and encouraging testing.

Many people have worked getting Aotearoa, finally, to this point. We have led the world in many ways but not in treatment access. The first trial results of DAA’s came from our outstanding New Zealand researchers; Professors Ed Gane, and Catherine Stedman’s pioneering work. I want to thank Pharmac for listening to submitters like me, and experts, in negotiating a price we can afford, to treat everyone.

I would like to note the voluntary work of the facebook page Hepatitis C New Zealand, long term unsung efforts there keeping us all informed, and I would also like to thank the NZ Society of Gastroenterology Specialists. This organisation has played a big part in our global advocacy. The patient focussed, pragmatic inclusion of the generic option of FixhepC for genotypes 2-6, in the official guidelines, when we only had funded medication for genotype 1, has had far reaching effect in encouraging doctors, to ‘follow the science’ and help their patients get treatment. It has often been urgent, as in my case. Many lives have been saved as a result. Systems have changed.

Now we are in the era of elimination; such exciting times as we have the first opportunity in around 60 years to see the end of a world top 5 infectious killer. Hep C Action will be playing our part, promoting the butterfly as the international symbol of hep C, to erode stigma.