L15 — April 2011 — New Hep C Treatment
Intro: Four (m) million people in the U.S.; 100 (m) million worldwide. That's how many people are infected with hepatitis C. It's a virus you can get from blood transfusions given before 1990, shared needles, unclean tattoo needles and, sometimes, sex. In many cases it leads to cirrhosis of the liver and eventually liver cancer. Standard treatment only cures about 45 percent of all patients. But thanks to new medications, more people with hepatitis C will be cured.
Here is John Paul the second.
Paul Malloy first picked up a paint brush when he was sick from hepatitis C.
I got it through a blood transfusion I had in 1978.
Like many people with the hepatitis C virus, Paul didn't have symptoms for many years. But when they hit, he got very, very ill.
I was in end-stage liver failure, which means I needed a liver.
A transplant. He got a new liver from a friend. A living donor. But in just over a year that liver began to fail. He needed another transplant. You see, the medications used to treat hepatitis C did not clear it from Paul's body. Unfortunately, that's reality for about 45 percent of all hepatitis C patients. But according to Dr. Hugo Vargas, that is about to change.
The middle of 2011 will probably be considered a watershed moment when we finally have reasonable expectations for a cure for hepatitis C.
Dr. Vargas says there are more than 40 new drugs in development now. Two of them will be released for general use this year. Telaprevir and boceprevir, which are very similar.
The proportion of patients that respond to therapy will go from 45 percent to as high as 70 percent.
The new drugs work differently than the current medications, interferon and ribavirin. Those older drugs prompt your immune system to kill the virus. The new generation of medications attacks the virus head-on. They block a key enzyme in the hepatitis C virus and prevent virus production. It attacks only the virus with minimal impact to the human host. And to make the new medications work even better, researchers are learning how to look at a person's genes to see how well they'll respond to medication — a way to tailor treatment to each patient's individual needs.
I was doing the black and white thing for about the first year I was sick. Then I started bringing more color, more color, more color.
After a second transplant, Paul feels great. So far the hepatitis C virus has not come back. Dr. Vargas hopes the new medication will cure or halt the progression of hepatitis C. So people like Paul can live.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
If you had a blood transfusion before 1990, used IV drugs, have gotten tattoos in a nonprofessional way or have had many sexual partners, you are at risk of hepatitis C. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be tested.
And if you do have hepatitis C, be assured that treatments continue to improve.
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