This the 185 million people worldwide
living with chronic Hepatitis C (HCV) and their loved ones ought to be
celebrating a major medical accomplishment: the release of sofosbuvir, a
new medication which cured 90%
of HCV-infected patients in clinical trials. It is too soon to
celebrate, however, as this life-saving drug remains financially out of
reach for most of those affected.
Gilead Sciences, the manufacturer, has
decided to sell the medication, named Sovaldi, at a cost of $84,000 per
twelve-week treatment regimen. Raymond Schinazi, one of the scientists
who helped formulate the drug, estimates that this same treatment
regimen costs only $1,400
to produce. At this price, insurance companies and government programs
will be reluctant to cover the medication, and it will be inaccessible
for most people living in low- and middle-income countries, who account
for 90% of HCV cases worldwide.
The prohibitive cost has put health advocates in a bind. Alan Franciscus, of the HCV Advocate, an organization that publishes an HCV-focused newsletter on www.hcvadvocate.org and runs 40-60 trainings
each year with public health workers, patients and doctors, is one
example. He has found that Gilead has had good patient assistance
program for uninsured patients in the past, which he has encouraged
people to use. Yet in spite of this he has remained concerned about
how the cost will affect insurance companies’ willingness to cover the
medications, and has felt that he has had to “be silent on the question
Approximately 3.2 million individuals in the
United States are infected with chronic hepatitis C
(HCV) infection. While injection drug use is the
most common mode of transmission, growing
evidence indicates that the virus is also being
spread through sexual contact, particularly among
HIV-infected men who have sex with men (MSM).
If left untreated, HCV can lead to cirrhosis, endstage
liver disease, and death; HIV facilitates
the development of these complications. This
clinical brief reviews what is known about the
epidemiology of HCV among HIV-infected MSM,
as well as current screening, treatment,
Click here to access this new publication: Emerging Clinical Issue: Hepatitis C Infection in HIV-Infected Men Who Have Sex With Men and here for a list of other resources.
Patients have waited decades for such a ‘finite cure,’ but most can’t pay for it.
Hepatitis C patients in B.C. are waiting to hear
whether the province will cover new drugs doctors say represent
society’s first real chance to wipe out the disease, but which are
impossible for most people to afford.
Dr. Mel Krajden, a hepatologist with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, said the new treatments are a public health “miracle.”
By Adrian M. Di Bisceglie, MD, FACP, AASLD President
28th is the 7th World Hepatitis Day. AASLD makes use of this
opportunity to pause and reflect on the significance of viral hepatitis,
progress made so far, and future challenges. As hepatologists, we tend
to focus on the common forms of chronic viral hepatitis – that is
hepatitis B and hepatitis C, but we should not forget the toll of
morbidity and even mortality associated with acute hepatitis A,
hepatitis E, and hepatitis D.
It has been my personal privilege to have worked in the field of
viral hepatitis for more than 30 years now and I have been witness to
incredible changes and progress. Following the discovery of the
hepatitis B virus in 1965, a safe and effective vaccine was developed
and had been widely deployed by the end of the 1980s. The last ten years
have brought several highly potent and effective antiviral drugs to the
market, so that now we can legitimately claim that we can control
hepatitis B through vaccination and therapy. Work is already underway to
try and develop new agents that might eliminate hepatitis B viral
infection, not just control it.
Did you know that hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by a
virus, affects millions of people worldwide, resulting in acute and
chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every
Hepatitis is contagious. For example, the Hepatitis B virus spreads
through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected
person. People can also get infected by coming in contact with a
contaminated object, where the virus can live for up to 7 days.
Hepatitis B can range from being a mild illness, lasting a few weeks
(acute), to a serious long-term illness (chronic) that can lead to liver
disease or liver cancer.
Medicare can help keep you protected from some of the common strains of hepatitis: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.
Twenty-five years ago, the virus now widely known as hepatitis C was
discovered by researchers who applied the most advanced cloning
techniques to verify its existence.
Since then, hope for success
in the battle against this chronic, infectious, life-threatening disease
has never been higher than it is right now. Public-health officials
have united in urging those at risk for hepatitis C to be tested and
treated, resulting in many Americans now having easier access to
screening. Medicare recently announced that hepatitis C testing will be
provided as a no-cost preventive service in primary care. Breakthrough
drug treatments with high cure rates became available only last year,
with additional promising treatment options to be approved in the next
In short, tools to eradicate hepatitis C in the United States have arrived.
Transformative advances in drug treatments approved by the Food and
Drug Administration are giving the 3.2 million Americans with chronic
hepatitis C a chance for a longer, healthier life without the virus.
That’s welcome news for baby boomers—who make up three of four adults
with the hepatitis C virus—and millions of other Americans, many of whom
don’t yet know they are infected and carriers.
Hepatitis C can
be cured, and today’s drug therapies are very effective and easier for
patients to take, says Jeffrey S. Murray, M.D., the deputy director of
the Division of Antiviral Products in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation
and Research. Murray is an internist who specializes in infectious