Two new drugs curing Hepatitis C

April 6, 2012 4:56:01 PM PDT
The cure rates for Hepatitis C have been dismal until two new drugs came out last year. Now the cure rates are up to 75 percent.

Hepatitis C is a virus that destroys the liver and rarely has symptoms. Now doctors say baby boomers should get tested for the virus, because the sooner someone with Hep C gets the new treatment, the more likely they are to be cured.

Katie Anders doesn't want to die. But the Hepatitis C virus has been silently destroying her liver. Now at 27, she is in early stages of cirrhosis.

"I could end up with a liver transplant or liver cancer, and I've got two little kids I want to watch grow up," Anders said.

Chances are, she'll be there for her young children because a new drug that is clearing the tough Hepatitis C virus out of her body. It's called Victrelis. Victrelis and another new drug, Incivek, are turning Hep C's dismal survival rates around.

"In the early 1990s, we had a six percent cure rate. Now we're talking 75-77 percent cure rate," said Dr. Howard Monsour, who conducted a clinical trial on Victrelis at Methodist Hospital.

It's even helping people for whom nothing has worked.

"The ones who couldn't really get rid of the virus, you're seeing cure rates in the mid to upper 50 percentile range," Monsour said.

Hepatitis C causes cirrhosis of the liver and it's the biggest cause of liver transplants, so doctors say stopping Hepatitis C will reduce the need for transplants and reduce liver cancer rates as well.

Even so, the cure isn't easy. Anders has to take the new medicine for more than six months. She also takes a daily interferon shot and Ribavirun.

Dr. Monsour says the sooner you're treated, the better; and he says anyone over 40 should get a blood test to check for Hepatitis C.

The medicines cost about $30,000. But Dr. Monsour says insurance covers it and he says there are programs that cover it for people who don't have insurance.


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