Scientists have announced they now have a cure for the hepatitis C virus.
The pills not only wipe out the virus in nine of ten patients who suffer from the disease, they also restore liver function.
When attacked by the virus the liver gets scarred or even cancer as a result, making hepatitis C the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States.
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In just 12 weeks, the new drug treatment can cure advanced cases of the disease and eliminate the need for a transplant.
The treatment involves a combination of two drugs — sofosbuvir and velpatasvir — in a single pill.
Over the course of 36 months, doctors at Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center oversaw drug trials at 47 sites around the country, at which 260 hepatitis C patients took one to two pills a day for three months each.
The doctors announced Friday, 90% of the patients in advanced stages of the disease – on the verge of needing a transplant – were cured. Those in earlier stages of hepatitis saw a 99% rate of being cured — with no resurgence of the disease.
“The virus will go away and not come back,” lead researcher Dr. Michael Charlton told Deseret News. “You’re cured of Hep C.”
As recently as five years ago, only 25% of people who went through standard treatments were cured.
The pills studied in Utah are a completely new class of drugs that attack the disease differently — and more effectively — than existing treatments.
Gilead Sciences, makers of two expensive hepatitis drugs, funded the Utah research. Gilead’s pills on the market can cost as much as $95,000 for a full course of treatment.
It’s not clear how much the new pills will cost, but they could be available as early as mid-2016 if the FDA approves it.
The researchers published their study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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