BARRIERS AND SOLUTIONS TO HEP C TREATMENT
I CAN’T FIND A GP WHO WILL PRESCRIBE THE MEDICATION
Call Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 to find out where a qualified GP is in your area or go on line to their directory at hep.org.au/services-directory. They can also direct you towards clinics that can get you on treatment. You can suggest your GP do an on-line or face-to-face free course at the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM); ask him or her to have a look at www.ashm.org.au/
My GP decided to do the ASHM on line training after I approached him about wanting to go on treatment.
I CAN’T FIND A CHEMIST WHO WILL FILL MY PRESCRIPTION FOR THE NEW MEDS
Some chemists aren’t carrying the meds due to cost. The ATO has recently made is easier for pharmacies to dispense meds by speeding up GST refunds and the pharma companies who make the meds are making it easier for pharmacists to pay for the meds. The Pharmacy Guild is working to make it easier for people to access the medications. You can ring the Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 to find a chemist who is carrying the medication or go on line to their directory at hep.org.au/services-directory to search by postcode.
Neither my local chemist nor my methadone chemist would get the meds in, but I found a chemist nearby on the recommendation of my GP.
Anyone with a Medicare card can be treated; this includes people who are currently homeless. Many drug and alcohol services and some chemists will hold the meds and dose to you weekly or even daily if you are worried about losing them.
I am homeless but coping with treatment well. I get my meds once a week.
I’M WORRIED ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS
There are side effects, but nothing like the debilitating sickness that came with interferon related treatments and they affect fewer people (up to one in three people who take the treatments). Some people have more side effects than others, including headaches, nausea and fatigue. Remember treatment won’t last forever but a cure can.
Everyone always wants to know if there are any side effects from the new treatments. I admit I did experience a few but they were not enough to make me regret the decision to go on treatment.
SOME SERVICES ARE INSISTING I BE ON TWO FORMS OF CONTRACEPTION
This should only apply if you are of child-bearing age and are a heterosexual woman. It is because some of the medication has not been proven safe to the foetus. Remember that abstinence is a form of contraception! You have the right to insist that, knowing the risks, you will ensure that you will not get pregnant. If you are in a relationship or having regular sex, discuss contraception with your doctor.
I’m a grown woman capable of making sure I don’t get pregnant. I know what’s riding on it.
IT SEEMS TOO HARD
Most Local Health Districts have specialist hep C nurses who can support you. Drug and alcohol services such as your NSP or pharmacotherapy clinic can also support you, especially if they have a Peer Support Worker. Contact NUAA on 1800 644 413 or 02 8354 7300 if you would like to talk to a NUAA peer who can help you on your treatment journey, including making appointments and sending you reminder SMS’. You also can talk to hep C peers on the Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 for advice on how treatment can be easier for you. There are also some great apps to remind you to take your medication each day, including “Pill Organizer” and “Med Helper v2.7.7”.
It was all so simple, everything has been done in my clinic
I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ALL THE APPOINTMENTS
There are not many appointments needed. You can be tested in one appointment and get your meds in the next. After you are on treatment you should see your GP and have blood tests each month just to see how you are going and that there are no complications. Supporting appointments are available with psychologists and social workers, but are not compulsory. It’s up to you.
The whole process took about three weeks and I was on treatment!
I’M CURRENTLY USING ILLICIT DRUGS
Using drugs is not a barrier to treatment. It really doesn’t matter.
I was told that the medication would work the same if I was using or not using, as long as I took it every day and kept it down.
I DON’T WANT TO HAVE A BIOPSY
We are so pleased that there are no longer biopsies needed before people living with hep C can go on treatment. The test you need is a fibroscan, which is like an ultrasound. You do not have to have a fibroscan to start treatment but it does give your doctor some helpful information when deciding your treatment regime.
The fibroscan was so easy, just a couple of little bumps on the ribs... I know now I need to be looking at my hep C and thnking about treatment.
I’M WORRIED ABOUT ALL THOSE BLOOD TESTS – MY VEINS CAN’T STAND IT
There are a lot of ways you can help your phlebotomist. UN did an article about this in UN 83 (6 things). Key tips include taking charge at test time; plan your tests so you can use water, heat and exercise to get your veins in order; and use a tourniquet effectively. Some services have infrared vein finders (NUAA’s NSP has one). These handy tools show you where your veins are and can help you get bood tests done.
The tests are the worst part for me, for sure, but do-able. If I drink heaps of water, add heat and take control with the phlebotomist about where to go and how to get my vein, I can get through it.
I’M IN JAIL
If you are in jaill, you are a priority for treatment. Make an appointment to see the Justice Health nurse at your centre and tell them that you would like to be treated for hep C. If you are close to getting out, they may decide it is best for you to be tested and assessed inside and then treated when you get out. You can call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990 for more info (dial 3 on the common calls list).
It has taken a while to get an appointment but I feel better that I am on the path now. I do NOT want to take this thing home to my family if I can help it.
THERE’S TOO MUCH GOING ON IN MY LIFE
We all understand not wanting to take something on when we think we may not have the ability to see it through. It might be advisable to get your tests and prescription then fill it when you are ready. Many people only need three months of treatment and those who have experienced it say it passes quickly. Those who lead busy lives say they had no problem dealing with being on medication.
I always felt I had too much on and was too busy with work and kids and stuff. I decided to get tests done when I was at the doctor for other stuff. The test results ended up motivating me.