New drug offers hope for Hepatitis C cure
A powerful new drug is being hailed as a cure for Hepatitis C, the leading cause of cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer and liver transplants. The Food and Drug Administration last week approved Harvoni, a pill that cured 90 to 100 percent of Hepatitis C patients during clinical trials.
In the past, Hepatitis C treatment required oral medication and injections with severe side effects often sending patients to the hospital, according to Dr. Rocky Yapp, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., one of only three hospitals in Illinois involved in the clinical trials of Harvoni. In addition, the treatment had a lower success rate for curing patients.
“With Harvoni, the side effects have been reduced and the cure rate has dramatically increased,” Dr. Yapp says.
About 3.2 million Americans are living with Hepatitis C, and many do not even know it as it can take up to 30 years for symptoms of the virus to appear. This is why the Center for Disease Control recommends a one-time screening test for everyone born between 1945 and1965. This age group accounts for 75 percent of those with Hepatitis C.
Even without visible signs, the virus can cause permanent damage to the liver. Today, the most common way for individuals to become infected is through needle sharing. However, individuals who had a blood transfusion prior to 1992 are also at risk.
“With the development and approval of new treatments for Hepatitis C virus, we are changing the treatment paradigm for Americans living with the disease,” said Dr. Edward Cox of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a statement.
Learn more in this video from Dr. Yapp.
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