Newer treatments for hepatitis C are revolutionary and are bringing renewed hope to millions of patients. In the Nahass study referenced in the article, a single pill given for only 12 weeks cured 94% of patients. This simple treatment was compared to longer treatment courses of up to 24 weeks and others that included a third drug, ribavirin, and was equal to the more complicated and traditional regimens.
The study was sponsored by Gilead Sciences and performed with a test population of 440 patients. In addition to the simplicity, there was no significant toxicity for the single tablet regimen with no test patients having to stop the treatment because of side effects.
The initiative resulted a series of articles on new treatments for hepatitis C documenting amazing results with as little as 8 weeks of treatment and with different treatment regimens developed by 3 different companies – Bristol Meyers Squibb, Abbvie, and Gilead Sciences. Findings in each of the studies showed cure rates of over 90% without previously experienced dose limiting toxicities. Gilead’s drug Sovaldi, a new treatment for hepatitis C, had $2.3 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2014, which beat the record for any drug in its first whole year on the market.
The recent discussions on the high cost of the treatments, in some cases well over $100,000, are raising questions about the value of such treatment, whether rationing will be needed, and whether some type of government or payer pressure will be needed to bring down costs. These latest results provide hope that increased competition in the marketplace will help drive the cost down. With treatments recently reported achieving high rates of cure with very low risk and for short treatment durations, it is likely the availability of these new medications will drive the cost lower.
A New York Times article (A Viral Illness That Can Be Silent and Hard to Treat But Also Cured, August 14, 2018) noted that “3.2 million Americans who harbor hepatitis C aren’t event aware they have it. In four out of five people, there are no symptoms when the infection first occurs.”
Dr. Nahass and ID Care have performed over 25 clinical trials for new medical treatments of Hepatitis C for Gilead, Merck, Abbvie, and Bristol Meyers Squibb. Previous to the work with Hepatitis C, ID Care had performed over 80 studies for HIV medications, many of which are now on the market. ID Care is the largest organization in New Jersey dedicated to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases.