Five key insights into the treatment of Hepatitis C

Breakthroughs in research and health care from the latest event in UOW's Luminaries webinar series

‘Hepatitis C - A Public Health Success Story’ was the latest event in the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Luminaries webinar series.

Moderated by UOW Vice-Chancellor and President Patricia M. Davidson, the latest Luminaries webinar in this year's line-up brought together esteemed, internationally-renowned names in the research and treatment of Hepatitis C.
Sharing transformative insights into the virus’s treatment and prevention, the panel included:

  • Dr Nick Walsh - Leading physician in public health and addiction medicine with a PhD in epidemiology from Monash University.
  • Dr Joshua Sharfstein - Director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement, and Professor of the Practice in Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  • Professor David Currow - Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Sustainable Futures at the University of Wollongong, and a physician engaged in public health initiatives and cancer control.
  • Scientia Professor Gregory Dore - Head of the Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales and an infectious disease physician at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Australia​​.

The panel highlighted revolutionary treatments that cure 98 per cent of cases along with the crucial integration of Hepatitis C management into broader public health systems. Also noted were the ongoing challenges of the virus, and the need to celebrate significant milestones achieved in public health.

Professor Davidson and the panel were united by the importance of a multifaceted approach to effectively treat and manage Hepatitis C, encompassing medical innovation, healthcare integration, and political support.

The Luminaries webinar series demonstrates the University of Wollongong's commitment to the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities).

Stream the ‘Hepatitis C - A Public Health Success Story’ webinar in full:

Here are five insights into Hepatitis C treatment and health care from the discussion: 

Recognise significant breakthroughs

“About, 15 years ago, there was a revolution, in Hepatitis C, and there were therapeutics, drugs developed, which cured about 98 per cent of individuals.” - DR NICK WALSH

Dr Walsh underscores the dramatic advancements in medical treatments for Hepatitis C, which have transformed a once-chronic illness into a curable condition for the vast majority of patients. It highlights the significance of scientific progress in improving public health outcomes.

A concerning link

“Somewhere between two in 10, and five in 10 cancers of the liver, depending on where you live in the world and the other risk factors, are related to Hepatitis C or B, and we have an opportunity to really change the future.” - PROFESSOR DAVID CURROW

This emphasises the parallels between Hepatitis C treatment and the prevention of liver cancer. During the panel, Professor Currow also drew attention to the importance of addressing Hepatitis C in regions with limited healthcare resources to reduce cancer rates and improve overall health.

Manage further impacts

“There's other, findings. And on top of that, there's evidence of heart disease. There is even some speculative evidence on conditions like Alzheimer's, which seems to be independent of the degree of liver damage. So it may be that the virus has some direct effect there, so that there's a lot of horrible things that hepatitis C virus does to your body.” - DR JOSHUA SHARFSTEIN

Dr Sharfstein drives home the extensive health implications of Hepatitis C beyond just liver disease. Recognising these broader impacts reinforces the need for comprehensive treatment and management strategies to improve overall patient health and quality of life.

Simplify access to treatment

“And I really sort of advocated strongly and started to actually treat people who were injecting way back then in late 1999. And that sort of set the foundation, I think, to place Hepatitis C in the context of human rights and equity of access to health care.” - PROFESSOR GREGORY DORE

Professor Dore spoke to the necessity of integrating Hepatitis C treatment within general public health services to ensure that vulnerable and marginalised groups have access to life-saving treatments. He points to the need for inclusive healthcare policies and systems and also emphasised equally-important learnings outside scientific medical research.

Align politics and planning

“Getting political backing is critical. And then where do you go from there?...once you start speaking numbers and you start speaking to finance, then countries…tend to pay more attention. So we found the combination of health advocacy and speaking numbers through economic modelling to be very effective.” - DR NICK WALSH

Dr Walsh shares the fundamental role of political will and strategic planning in the success of public health initiatives. He spotlights a fundamental lesson: scientific and medical advancements must be supported by robust policy frameworks and committed leadership to achieve global health goals.

See the complete 2024 Luminaries line up and stream past webinars in full.