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A New Hepatitis C Treatment offers Hope


Well this might seem weird, but today is world hepatitis day. I guess I should qualify weird with the fact that it’s only weird because no one really knows. What better day than to share some new news coming out of labs regarding the fight against hepatitis and what news it is! Researchers have cured 93 percent of patients with Hepatitis C in 12 weeks. Better still was well tolerated by patients. But that isn’t the only surprise so read on and find out!

Unlike its counterparts with similar names Hepatitis C does not have a vaccination. This means that if you get it treatment can be rough… to say the least. News of this study is important because encouraging people to take a simple blood test to diagnose hepatitis C could result in their being treated with an oral regimen that could prevent serious liver diseases such as cancer, cirrhosis or liver failure. Not so fun fact, hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S. today.

Right now roughly 3.2 million people in the U.S. have hepatitis C and sadly most do not know even know they have it, this is because it does not present itself right away. Historically, the successful treatment for hepatitis C patients with cirrhosis have been lower than 50 percent. Not only that but the treatment has had numerous adverse effects on patients. The previous standard of care with interferon involved a complicated regimen of shots, add to that up to 18 oral tablets a day for up to a whopping 48 weeks, and subsequent six months of follow-up care to determine if the therapy was successful. There were also major side effects with the treatment, this includes things like rash, anemia and depression.

Because of all of this, there has been much effort to find a better way. This new completely oral regimen holds promise for a hepatitis C cure rate of more than 90 percent of patients, including those with liver cirrhosis [which is just a fancy medical term for liver scarring]. The researchers looked for participants in the study that had the most common form of hepatitis C [genotype 1] and were difficult to treat due to either failing a previous course of interferon and ribavirin, or having the cirrhosis as mentioned before.

“We are now in the midst of a paradigm shift of moving away from complicated injection regimens that included interferon and often caused significant side effects with modest success  rates,” Dr. Lawitz said. “This trial provides a glimpse into the outcomes of sofosbuvir and simeprevir for treatment of hepatitis C. Both drugs are approved by the FDA but are not yet approved together for this treatment,” he said.

Just in case you are wondering more than 150 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis C. It is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, with 350,000 to 500,000 deaths attributed to it that are reported annually. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 percent of U.S. residents with chronic hepatitis C were born from 1945 through 1965. Because of this, the CDC recommends people born during these years have a one-time test for hepatitis C to prevent the risk of more serious health problems.

This is good news for people who have hepatitis C and will hopefully offer a stopgap type treatment until a better way to prevent or treat it. I had no idea it was world hepatitis C day, but I can imagine that this will be good news for people who did know.

Lawitz, E., Sulkowski, M., Ghalib, R., Rodriguez-Torres, M., Younossi, Z., Corregidor, A., DeJesus, E., Pearlman, B., Rabinovitz, M., Gitlin, N., Lim, J., Pockros, P., Scott, J., Fevery, B., Lambrecht, T., Ouwerkerk-Mahadevan, S., Callewaert, K., Symonds, W., Picchio, G., Lindsay, K., Beumont, M., & Jacobson, I. (2014). Simeprevir plus sofosbuvir, with or without ribavirin, to treat chronic infection with hepatitis C virus genotype 1 in non-responders to pegylated interferon and ribavirin and treatment-naive patients: the COSMOS randomised study The Lancet DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61036-9

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