New treatment could see NZ eradicate Hepatitis C in next 20 years

It's hoped a new treatment for Hepatitis C will put New Zealand on track to eradicate the virus within 20 years.

Pharmac has announced funding for a medication that can cure all types of it.

Damian Holt had Hepatitis C for 37 years - it nearly killed him.

"I came as close to dying as possible when I had the virus," he told Newshub.

"And to get rid of the virus was just, it was just something that had to be done - otherwise I wouldn't have been around for much longer."

Hepatitis C is an infectious blood-borne virus that can lead to liver cancer and liver failure, and is the leading cause of liver transplants.

But from February, Kiwis will have access to a new breakthrough treatment called Maviret, which could wipe out the virus altogether.

"For the first time ever, we can treat everyone with Hepatitis C in this country," says liver specialist Professor Ed Gane.

"It doesn't matter what type of Hepatitis C you have, it doesn't matter if you have cirrhosis or you don't have cirrhosis, you can be treated with this treatment."

And patients no longer need to go to hospital for treatment. Maviret is an oral treatment you can get from your GP, and has almost an 100 percent cure rate.

"So now we've got the tools to do it, and now we have to get out and find everyone who has Hepatitis C and make sure that they get started on this fantastic new treatment," says Professor Gane.

An estimated 50,000 New Zealanders have Hepatitis C, but it's thought only half know they have it. Until patients get really sick, the only real symptom is fatigue.

Damian Holt got it from sharing a drug needle in 1980, but didn't find out for over 20 years. He hopes this new treatment will encourage more people to come forward.

"It's vital to get tested and get treated, because it could be a lifesaver," says Mr Holt.

Specialists are hoping for a Government strategy to find patients, but say anyone who has ever injected drugs or had a blood transfusion before 1992 should get tested.