New hope for hepatitis C, an often hidden disease
January 17, 2011 By LAURAN NEERGAARD , AP Medical Writer
Dr. Paul J. Pockros, head, Division of Gastroenterology/ Hepatology and director, Liver Disease Center, talks with patient Loretta Roberts as they view her information on a computer screen in his exam room at Scripps Green Hospital in San Diego, in this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
There’s new hope for an overlooked epidemic: Two powerful drugs are nearing the market that promise to help cure many more people of liver-attacking hepatitis C – even though most who have the simmering infection don’t know it yet.
Today’s two-drug treatment for hepatitis C cures only about 40 percent of people with the most common variety of the virus, and causes some grueling side effects. Now major studies show that adding a new drug -either Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ telaprevir or Merck & Co.’s boceprevir – can boost those cure rates as high as 75 percent. And they allow some people to cut treatment time in half, to six months, thus lessening how long they must deal with those side effects.