General practitioners as well as Nurse Practitioners are able to treat hepatitis C in consultation with specialists.
For all other health professionals, there is a range of information that can assist you in providing advice and support to clients who are concerned about, or may have been diagnosed with hepatitis C.
Health Professionals FAQs
As a GP can I treat Hepatitis C?
Yes. GPs can treat patients with hepatitis C. It is very straightforward. The new treatments are all oral, usually taken once a day for as little as 8 weeks (sometimes longer), and generally very well tolerated.
Treatment may need to be undertaken in consultation with a specialist by phone, fax or email. There is an example of a standard remote consultation form. Once you have the approval from a specialist it is a standard call to the PBS Authority Line.
What does in consultation mean?
In consultation with a specialist can be by phone, fax or email with your local specialist service.
If you don’t have access to a local specialist call the Hepatitis Victoria Infoline on 1800 703 003 to put you with touch with one.
Doctors and Nurse Practitioners do not need to consult if experienced.
You need to know the genotype and whether there is evidence of cirrhosis or not, what other medication the person is on, and whether or not they are ready for treatment.
Download a remote consultation form here.
How is a diagnosis of Hepatitis C confirmed?
People need to be both antibody and PCR positive to confirm a diagnosis of hepatitis C. Antibody positive alone only confirms exposure at some point.
It does not mean the virus is still present in their blood.
Also the genotype must be known to determine the most appropriate treatment though Pan-Genotypic medicines are suitable for all genotypes.
What tests are needed?
Initial diagnosis of hepatitis C can only be confirmed through a PCR test, which shows whether or not the virus is present in the blood.
A PCR test is only undertaken if a previous antibody test has shown the patient has been exposed to the virus.
If a PCR test comes back as positive then a range of other tests will be needed to determine the genotype, state of the liver, and viral load.
Should I treat someone who is still injecting?
Yes, treatment is available to all and should be offered to anyone with hepatitis C who want to be cured in a non-judgemental manner.
New treatments not only provide a cure, they also help to prevent transmission to others.
You might want to engage other services that work with this community to assist treatment completion.
How easy is it to access the treatments?
Any pharmacy can supply these treatments under prescription.
Supply should be available in all geographical areas but it is probably good to ring your local pharmacy first to make sure they can ensure continuity of access for your patient.
For any queries about pharmacies contact the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 703 003.
Do GPs need to undertake any special training to treat patients with Hepatitis C?
The only requirement is that you treat a patient in consultation with a specialist unless you are experienced. However, for those interested in further training there are a range of options:
Is support required once the patient has cleared the virus?
If the patient has any evidence of liver damage, ongoing monitoring will be required and a referral to a specialist gastroenterologist or hepatologist is recommended.
Some patients may need counselling or support while they adapt to life without the infection.
For some people the transition from having a chronic infection that may have been present for decades to the position of being clear can be difficult.
The hepatitis C virus is often ascribed as the cause of physical and psychological discomfort, and any persistence of these symptoms post cure can cause confusion.
Further information for GPs and health professionals can be found below: