Hepatitis C patients may have ‘cure’ treatments available within a year

Hepatitis C virus. Photograph: Getty Images

Hepatitis C virus. Photograph: Getty Images


New combination treatments that can cure the vast majority of hepatitis C patients could be available to Irish patients within a year.

Data on the new treatments, which are being developed by more than one pharmaceutical company, was presented at the International Liver Congress 2014 in London at the weekend.

One company, AbbVie, presented data showing its combination treatment caused a sustained virologic response, ie a cure, in 96 per cent of patients within three months as part of an international clinical trial that included Irish patients.

The company’s treatment regimen cured even patients with long-term hepatitis C, those with fibrosis and cirrhosis, those with difficult-to-treat subtypes, and those who have already failed to clear the virus after using other treatments, according to the data presented.

Shorter treatment
The new combination therapies are much more effective, and have much shorter treatment durations and far fewer side effects than the currently available treatments for hepatitis C patients.

This new class of treatment was described as “revolutionary” and “game changing” by two leading Irish hepatitis C clinicians who attended the conference. Prof Suzanne Norris, consultant hepatologist, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, ensured a number of her patients were involved in the Irish part of the AbbVie trial.

“To think compared to when there was very little we could do in the 1980s for hepatitis C to now being able to take three months or less of oral medication with around a 95 per cent cure rate, it’s incredible,” she told The Irish Times .

Prof Colm Bergin, consultant physician in infectious diseases at St James’s, said the challenge now was the connectivity between medium and long-term gain for the health service versus the short-term costs of the treatment.

Technology assessment
One of the new combination therapies, sofosbuvir made by Gilead, is undergoing a health technology assessment by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics.

While no details of the Irish prices of the new therapies have been released, sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) has been approved in the US at the cost of $84,000 (€61,000) per patient.