Progress against Hepatitis C with a drug cocktail

Hepatitis C has infected 180 million people in the world and causes about 60,000 deaths each year. In the USA about 5 million people have Hepatitis C and about 8,000-12,000 people die each year. African-Americans and Hispanics are respectively three- and two-fold more likely to be HCV positive than whites. Currently hepatitis C causes 8,000 10,000 deaths each year and accounts for almost half of the ~4,000 liver transplantations done each year. Since death from HCV liver disease usually occurs 20 or more years after the initial infection, the HCV death rate is anticipated to triple in the next 15 to 20 years.

Researchers at St. Louis University have been testing a new drug that could increase the cure rate for hepatitis C by half or more.

If the Food and Drug Administration approves the new drug combination this summer as researchers predict, the medical community will be able to cure about 75 percent of known hepatitis C cases.

The pharmaceutical company Merck developed a drug with the generic name of boceprevir to go after the more stubborn strains of hepatitis C.

There are other treatments being studied that aim at increasing the cure rate to 80 or 90 percent.

The downside of the new treatment is that after approval, it will cost about $60,000 from diagnosis to finish, which can last six months to a year.

That’s why Bacon encourages applying for studies. People get free care plus access to drugs that may be three to four years from the pharmacy.

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