Hepatitis Australia, 3 April 2020
Hepatitis Australia warmly welcomes recent changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) allowing authorised Nurse Practitioners to prescribe hepatitis B and hepatitis C medicines under the Highly Specialised Drugs (s100) Program.
Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are under-treated and without improvement in a range of areas Australia risks falling short of agreed national and global viral hepatitis elimination goals. Expanded access to timely treatment and care is a critical component of the national response.
This important development acknowledges the clinical expertise of Nurse Practitioners and the therapeutic relationships they develop and maintain with highly stigmatised and often vulnerable populations.
Under previous arrangements, authorised Nurse Practitioners were able to prescribe treatments for hepatitis B and hepatitis C under the PBS General Schedule (s85). Where Nurse Practitioners were available in primary care services, this arrangement enhanced access to antiviral therapies in community settings.
From 1 April 2020, authorised Nurse Practitioners are also able to prescribe hepatitis B and hepatitis C treatments under the Highly Specialised Drugs (s100) Program. This matters because some people are not able to access primary care settings. The change therefore improves the availability of treatment for vulnerable populations such as people living in remote and regional areas, people experiencing homelessness, and people in custodial settings.
Hepatitis Australia congratulates the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee for recommending this important change, and we thank our colleagues at ASHM (Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine) for their leadership in this matter.
Community members in need of more information about hepatitis B and hepatitis C may wish to contact 1800 437 222 (1800 HEP ABC). This National Hepatitis Infoline directs callers to the community-based hepatitis organisation in the relevant state or territory.
ASHM’s “Find a Prescriber” function helps community members find a Doctor or Nurse Practitioner who has attended ASHM’s hepatitis training. People can also speak to their GP about treatment.