Director of Gastroenterology, St Vincent's Hospital
"I am a Hep Hero because I am passionate about identifying and treating all”
I am a gastroenterologist who has been actively involved in the treatment of viral hepatitis for many years. I am an academic who has spent the past 10 years developing better ways to assess and treat patients with viral hepatitis. The past decade has seen dramatic improvements in the treatment for both HCV and HBV, with the development of new drugs that are all-oral (no injections), very effective, and with minimal side effects. Very exciting times! These drugs are already available for HBV, and we hope that the drugs developed for HCV will be available as soon as possible.
Viral hepatitis is a common health problem in Australia, affecting more than 350,000 individuals. Viral hepatitis causes cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. The risk of these complications is reduced, and in many cases completely prevented, by effective treatment. Ground-breaking research has led to the development of new treatments that can cure hepatitis C, and can very effectively control hepatitis B. Therefore, it is critical that all individuals who are at risk for viral hepatitis get a simple screening blood test. It is vital that we break down all barriers to testing and treatment as soon as possible.
The two issues I am most passionate about are:
- Making sure that all individuals who have viral hepatitis KNOW that they have viral hepatitis.
- Making sure that all individuals who have viral hepatitis can have the BEST TREATMENT available
One particular concern I have is that there may be delays in the registration of new therapies for HCV in Australia. There are now all-oral, very safe and very effective treatments that can cure most patients with HCV. These treatments can be given even to the sickest patients with liver failure, in whom they are life-saving. Unfortunately these drugs will be expensive. We need the community to speak up, and encourage government and industry to make these drugs available as soon as possible, particularly for the sickest patients who may die if access is delayed. Community advocacy can work, and government will listen.
"We must make sure that all individuals with viral hepatities KNOW that they have viral hepatities and should be accorded the best treatment possible."