Haemophiliacs seek access to new treatment

Group says 350 Hepatitis C patients urgently need new therapies to stay alive

The Irish Haemophilia Society has called for early access to new treatments for 350 seriously ill patients with Hepatitis C. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

The Irish Haemophilia Society has called for early access to new treatments for 350 seriously ill patients with Hepatitis C. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

The Irish Haemophilia Society has called for early access to new treatments for 350 seriously ill patients with Hepatitis C.

It says this group cannot medically tolerate the current Interferon-based treatments due to severe liver damage and the increase risk of death.

Of the 12,365 patients in Ireland who need Hepatitis C treatment, 350 have been identified by specialist hepatologists as needing urgent treatment.

Some 264 people with haemophilia were infected with Hepatitis C through blood or blood products. Of these, 106 were also infected with HIV. A total of 113 people with haemophilia have died of HIV or Hepatitis C to date with 38 who dying solely of Hepatitis C.

Chief executive Brian O’Mahony says: “Too many of our members have died. We provide continued support to all our members with Hepatitis C, including to the 50 who were cured of Hepatitis C through treatment”.

“Those who are now living with advanced liver disease as a result of Hepatitis C deserve a chance to live and we call on the Minister of Health and the HSE to agree, without further delay, to an early access programme which would save lives and save money.”

An expert group, chaired by Dr Deirdre Mulholland of the Department of Health and Children, is currently examining the new treatment options, which cost about €45,000 on a once-off basis.

Mr O’Mahony says early access could save the Government about €10.5 million by preventing decompensated liver disease, liver cancer or the requirement for liver transplants, and because one of the therapies is available free before it is licensed in October.

Prof Suzanne Norris, consultant hepatologist at St James’s Hospital, says the Government has a “very narrow window of opportunity” to avail of these cost savings.