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New pill could offer hepatitis C cure

Hepatitis
New drug daclatasvir can rid 90 per cent of hepatitis C patients of the infection in 12 weeks when combined with other agents.


A new pill treatment that is said to offer a "cure" for the chronic liver disease hepatitis C has been launched in the UK.

The drug daclatasvir can rid 90 per cent or more patients of the infection in 12 weeks when combined with other agents.

Used with another pill, sofosbuvir, it has produced clinical cure rates of 89 per cent and 98 per cent in patients with different viral strains.

Standard treatment for hepatitis C involves injections of the immune system stimulator interferon and can have serious side effects. It typically yields cure rates of 60 per cent to 80 per cent.

The launch of daclatasvir makes a daily pill-only treatment for the disease available that brings eradication of hepatitis C a step closer.

"Each new treatment for hepatitis C takes us closer to making the elimination of hepatitis C a realistic possibility, by improving both cure rates and tolerability," Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said.

"With only 3 per cent of people with hepatitis C in England accessing treatment each year, it is crucial patients are able to access new treatments as early as possible so they have the opportunity to get cured of this cancer-causing virus."

Hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus commonly spread by drug takers sharing needles, can hide for years without producing symptoms before leading to potentially fatal liver damage or cancer.

Deaths from the infection have almost quadrupled in the UK since 1996.

Each year, more than 200,000 people are infected, but up to a half go undiagnosed.

Trial results showing the effectiveness of the pill treatment were hailed as a "turning point" by experts when they emerged in April.

When daclatasvir is combined with interferon-alpha and the pill drug ribavirin, it can cure 100 per cent of patients with the less common genotype 4 strain of the virus.

In January, daclatasvir was brought forward for priority review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in recognition of the unmet treatment need.

The drug belongs new to a new family of pharmaceuticals called NS5A inhibitors which target a specific protein in the hepatitis C virus.


Copyright  AAP 2014

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