Doctors in Louisiana are ready to start prescribed a revolutionary Hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, which has been proven to clinically cure up to 90% of cases of Hepatitis C in clinical trials.
Nearly 4 million Americans are affected by Hepatitis C, which is most common in the Baby Boomer generation. The virus is even more prevalent in developing countries like India, Pakistan, China, and Egypt. Because Hepatitis C can be asymptomatic for years, many people are unaware that they are infected, and may remain unaware until serious symptoms develop.
Hepatitis C became widespread in the 1980s, when the virus infected blood supplies but was not yet detected. Now, it continues to be spread by sharing contaminated needles, and in rare cases by sharing contaminated manicure supplies and toothbrushes. It can also be contracted in health care settings if equipment is contaminated or needle stick injuries occur.
3 times as many people live with Hepatitis C as lived with HIV, and the virus is often deadly. Over a course of years or decades, the virus causes cirrhosis and cancer of the liver. It can be fatal without a liver transplant, and the effects are especially pronounced in patients who also have HIV.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, and traditional Hepatitis C treatments came with a long laundry list of common side effects and were neither as quick nor as effective as the new drug. The new Hepatitis C drug requires a 12-week regimen, and the majority of patients studied showed no traces of the virus or need for continued drug therapy.
The drug has been the subject of some controversy due to its cost, which sits at $1,000 per pill, or $84,000 per 12-week treatment cycle, but doctors say that the cost of the treatment is dwarfed by the lifetime cost of treating advanced Hepatitis C. In addition, insurance companies are likely to cover the cost of treatment after prior authorization.
A comprehensive approach to Hepatitis C treatment is recommended, especially now that early treatment is more effective. Preventative measures such as addiction treatment, needle exchanges, and blood donation screening will continue to reduce rates of the virus. Early detection is also essential since the virus is more difficult to treat the more damage has been done.
Dr. Christopher J. Christensen, a gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Associates, was involved in developing Solvadi. Interested patients can call (225) 927-1190 for a consultation.