Access to drugs gives new hope

DRUGS that cure hepatitis C could bring relief to more than 7000 Tasmanians believed to be living with the disease.

Two medications — Boceprevir and Telaprevir — have been placed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and could help people like Invermay’s Ashling Buchanan, 64, lead a better quality of life.

Ms Buchanan discovered she had hepatitis C when it was discovered in tests five years ago.

The blood-borne virus affects the liver, and is transmitted by sharing contaminated needles, needle-stick injures, unsterile body piercing and tattoo equipment, and the sharing of personal items like toothbrushes or razors, which may contain tiny amounts of contaminated blood.

Ms Buchanan said she believed she contracted the virus when she was living in Sydney in the 1970s.

‘‘It can lay dormant for years and down the track it builds up and gets stronger and stronger,’’ Ms Buchanan said.

‘‘I started getting very tired and feeling sick. I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t even know it was an issueuntil I got my results back,’’ she said.

Federal Health Minster Tanya Plibersek’s promise of $220 million over five years to subsidise Boceprevir and Telaprevir gives those with hepatitis C an opportunity to cure the virus.

It becomes even more crucial to Ms Buchanan who also has chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

‘‘I can’t be treated for the arthritis because I need to clear the hep C virus first,’’ she said.

●‘People who require information or assistance on hepatitis C should contact Anglicare on 1800 243 232.

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