Hepatitis C is described as a “silent killer” estimated to have infected three to four million people in America and 150 million worldwide. This staggering number is three to five times greater than those infected with H.I.V. It’s called the silent killer because most people who are infected with the disease don’t know it since it can take many decades for it to show symptoms of silently destroying the liver. Many drugs have been created to kill the Hepatitis C virus but only about half of the people treated are cured – but with a promising new drug on the horizon, doctors, scientists, and patients are hopeful the number of patients cured will rise significantly.
Most treatments for Hepatitis C are given by combining different medications to achieve the desired results but are not as effective as scientists would like. Though the one receiving much attention since it has been followed in numerous case studies and is effectively and safely treating patients, is the combination of a once-a-day pill that contains two experimental drugs by Gilead, sofosbuvir, and ledipasvir. These two combined with ribavirin seem to be the winning treatment. 80 to 100 percent of patients who are taking this new combination of treatment are finding that Hepatitis C is gone within 12 to 24 weeks of treatment, and sometimes in an even shorter amount of time.
It is projected that over the next three years and starting in the next few weeks that new drugs will be offered on the market to cure most Hepatitis C patients with a once-a-day pill for as short a duration as just 8 weeks and with minimal to no side effects. This would be a significant positive change compared to current treatment methods that only have about a 70 percent cure record and take 6 to 12 months of injections with excruciating side effects.
Dr. Rubens, a professor of management at Florida Gulf Coast University, willingly entered into a clinical trial that tested this new treatment method and after three months of treatment was completely cured of the Hepatitis C virus. He called treatment a “piece of cake.” He had tried several different forms of treatment unsuccessfully before finally finding this new treatment.
Hepatitis C is spread by sharing needles and can also be spread during sexual intercourse. Before donated blood began being tested in 1992, the virus was easily transferred through blood transfusions. Dr. Rubens believes the virus was transmitted to him when he was a paramedic many years ago.
Because symptoms don’t show up for a long period of time, most people don’t know they are infected until their liver becomes damaged – which is when symptoms begin to appear.
Much is still unknown about this new treatment for curing Hepatitis C but all are hopeful about its outcome. A lot more extensive testing needs to be done before it can be offered on the market and it also depends on what form of Hepatitis C a patient has: Genotype 1, 2, or 3. Genotype 1 makes up more than 70 percent of the patients in the U.S., which is the kind Dr. Ruben had before being cured. Genotypes 2 and 3 make up about 20 to 25 percent of all the cases in the U.S. The length of treatment will depend on the type of Hepatitis C a patient has but either way, this new treatment is incredibly promising.
All-oral treatments make it easier to treat almost all patients of Hepatitis C including those who make up the majority of cases in the U.S – intravenous drug users, the homeless, and prisoners of which many have mental health illnesses.
Dr. Diana Sylvestre, who runs a clinic in Oakland, CA, which treats drug users and former users, states, “I can’t treat an unstable patient safely with interferon, but I can sure as hell give them a few pills.”
Contact a CAP Medical Clinic near you for more information.