The recent advances in the treatment of Hepatitis C have been staggering and the disease can now be cured in most people. Only a few years ago the standard treatment for Hepatitis C was to take interferon for over a year with a much lower success rate and much less favourable side effect profile.The problem now is that the medications needed are extremely expensive. Whilst the NHS has approved some of the treatments they are prioritising it for those patients that are running out of time. Unfortunately there are many other patients out there waiting for treatment who are being refused access to the medications at this time, mainly due to the high cost. There is sufficient evidence to show that the longer treatment is delayed the higher the chances of complications such as liver failure and cancer, so this is a real concern.
The good news is that further progress is being made in terms of simplifying treatment regimens. In a recent study it was shown that a 6 week course of Sofosbuvir, plus two other experimental direct acting antivirals currently being developed by Gilead Sciences, cured more than 90% of previously untreated people with genotype 1, the most common and hardest to treat of strains.
The benefit of this shorter treatment duration is obvious as the cost of a 6 week course should be significantly less than the current options , placing less of a burden on healthcare budgets. It will also be more convenient for patients to take. It is my hope that the work currently being done in trying to find shorter duration treatment options, will make the medication more accessible to other people in dire need of being treated and cured.
We have come a long way in the treatment and eradication of this disease, but we still have a ways to go in ensuring that everyone who needs treatment gets it. Hopefully this is another step in the right direction.