How new medicines are helping to transform the lives of Hepatitis C patients in Australia

How new medicines are helping to transform the lives of Hepatitis C patients in Australia

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Currently 182,000 Australians are estimated to be living with the Hepatitis C, but the medical system has never been better positioned to help patients in need. The good news is, the virus can be cured, and it can be done with ease.

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This is sponsored content for Hepatitis Australia.

When you receive a diagnosis of Hepatitis C, treatment options may not appear immediately obvious, nor is it always apparent who to turn to for support. The first thing to remember is that you are not alone.

Currently 182,000 Australians are estimated to be living with the virus, but the medical system has never been better positioned to help patients in need. The good news is, Hepatitis C can be cured, and it can be done with ease.

Jane Bradshaw, a Clinical Nurse Consultant of Hepatology at Royal Hobart Hospital, Tasmania, has been working with Hepatitis C patients for over 14 years, and is familiar with just how advanced treatment options have become.

Today, new, easier-to-use medications are readily available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) to people over the age of 18 who hold an Australian Medicare card, a reality that Ms Bradshaw believes has made a positive difference, unlike older less effective medications.

"Previous treatments for Hepatitis C were long and arduous, causing numerous unpleasant side effects. Both injections and tablets were once used together, and only 50 per cent of patients were cured.

It was grim, and only certain individuals were deemed suitable to manage the side effects of older treatments. Thankfully, it is more than 3 years since we have used these older medicines," Ms Bradshaw said.

Today, treatment is now more than 95 per cent effective at curing Hepatitis C, due to new medicines that require patients to take only one tablet per day. Unlike older remedies, no injections are needed and most individuals experience few to no side effects throughout the course of medication.

When asked how her patients' lives have been changed by the latest treatment options, Ms Bradshaw described the positive impact of modern medicines as making huge differences to each individual's overall health.

"Being 'virus free', cured, means that your blood is no longer infectious and you cannot transmit the virus to another person. It also means that long term you will be unlikely to have any alteration of liver function, such as cirrhosis or fibrosis. Therefore, patients can have far more confidence about their future," Ms Bradshaw said.

When working with patients who have been treated by the latest medicines, Ms Bradsaw has observed that cured individuals enjoy far greater participation in social and work circles. For those who have been cured, Ms Bradshaw says that there is also a decreased potential for stigma and thus discrimination.

"You will feel generally better [after taking these medicines] both physically and emotionally," Ms Bradshaw said.

As a result of new medicines, many patients are now living Hepatitis C free. However, some Australians may remain unaware that they are living with the disease.

As a blood borne virus, Hepatitis C has been known to harm the liver both slowly and silently, with many patients only experiencing mild symptoms prior to irreversible damage being done.

"Some patients do not experience any symptoms of the virus, and are even unaware that they are infected. Most patients may also experience varied symptoms such as tiredness, low mood, abdominal discomfort, headaches, aching joints and more," Ms Bradshaw said.

Given the fact that the symptoms of Hepatitis C can mirror those of other ailments, it is always advisable to get tested to make sure you're free of the virus. In Australia there is no cost involved in getting tested, and Ms Bradshaw says that the process is relatively easy and stress free.

"In most cases a simple blood test can be ordered by your GP or through the nurse-led clinic at a hospital liver clinic. These test results can confirm whether you have been exposed to the virus, and whether your blood is infectious," Ms Bradshaw said.

The results may take a week or so to come back, but it's always worth knowing where you stand. In the case of a positive Hepatitis C result, Ms Bradshaw says that there is no need to panic, as experienced professionals such as herself are on board to help with treatment plans that leave individuals cured in 97 per cent of cases.

If you or someone you love may be at risk of Hepatitis C, speak to your GP about getting tested. For more information on Hepatitis C and how to get cured visit www.testcurelive.com.au or phone the National Hepatitis Info Line on 1800 437 222.

This is sponsored content for Hepatitis Australia.

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