24 October 2011
From 1 November 2011, people with hepatitis B will no longer have to undergo liver biopsy before they can receive hepatitis B medicine, and instead may opt for a liver function test.
Supporters of the change say the requirement had blocked many with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection from accessing treatment, as they were either reluctant to have the invasive biopsy procedure or they lived in a remote area.
Pilot programs will also be rolled out next year offering GPs training to prescribe HBV medicine without needing to refer the person to a specialist.
Experts said the new approach would tackle Australia’s fastest increasing cause of cancer death, liver cancer from viral hepatitis.
Treatment rates for hepatitis C surged 50 per cent when a similar biopsy requirement was relaxed in 2006.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) - the government committee that assesses applications for listing of medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) - endorsed the change, which was jointly proposed by the Australian Society for HIV Medicine, Australian Liver Association and other stakeholders (online, Jul 2011).
Last Reviewed: 28 October 2011