New pill offers hope to hepatitis C patients who fail other treatment
The pill—which contains the antiviral drugs sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), velpatasvir and voxilaprevir—was nearly 100 percent effective in curing hepatitis C in patients whose disease returned after treatment with other antiviral drugs, the researchers said.
"Currently, we have very good treatments for hepatitis C, and we are able to achieve a cure in over 90 percent of patients. So globally, although only a few patients relapse, it still is a significant number," said lead researcher Dr. Marc Bourliere, from the Hospital Saint Joseph in Marseilles, France, Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter, reports.
This new pill is being developed as a rescue treatment for patients who have failed other therapy, he said. When it was used as an initial treatment in another study, the combination pill fared no better than the usual treatment, he added.
The data from these and other trials, funded by Gilead Sciences, the maker of the combination pill, is in the hands of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, where it is undergoing the approval process, Bourliere said.
The bottom line, according to Bourliere, is: "We have other options even if you fail the first treatments."
The new combination pill is likely to be expensive. In 2014, Gilead introduced a combination drug for hepatitis C called Harvoni, which was priced at more than $1,000 a dose with a 12-week course of treatment running $94,500, the Associated Press reported.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by several viruses, including hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of someone not infected.
Most people become infected with hepatitis C by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Approximately 75 percent to 85 percent of people who have hepatitis C will develop chronic infection. In the United States, as many as 4 million people have chronic hepatitis C, according to the CDC.
Many people infected with hepatitis C don't know they have it because they don't look or feel sick. ■