Hepatitis C: everything you need to know about new treatments and new molecules that heal almost 100%
The new treatments, which have entered or will enter the market early next year, will cure almost 100% of hepatitis C, but also of its dangerous complication, cirrhosis.
30 years ago, George M, was constantly tired and had severe headaches. The medical examination he did did not help him understand the causes too much, just that it may be a liver problem and that he should stop drinking alcohol. It was only after a few years and a few investigations that he was first informed that he had a form of hepatitis C. An injection was to blame, doctors said. It has only been 25 years since scientists succeeded in identifying and defining hepatitis C as an individual form of hepatitis, unrelated to hepatitis A or B, produced by a separate and very complex hepatitis virus. Today, we know that around the world, 160 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
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Classic treatment, a necessary "poison"
After starting an injection of interferon, a standard treatment for hepatitis C, George M. was lucky. The side effects (bone pain, severe anemia and hair loss) practically shattered him from normal life. But a year and a half after the start of treatment, the doctors told him that he had recovered and that, under balanced living conditions, without excess, he could live a long and normal life. However, half of the people treated this way are not so lucky. The efficacy of the treatment administered to patients with hepatitis C so far, that is to say the interferon combined with ribavirin, is only 50%.
In addition, in many cases, after a year of treatment with conventional treatment, the virus resurfaces, a phenomenon known as relapse. And there is also the category of those who simply do not respond to therapy. Their chances were extremely limited until recently.
Limited access to triple therapy
"In December 2008, I had surgery for cholecystitis. The doctor who operated on me spoke with the family and told my wife that he suspected he had a liver problem because he noticed an unusual color during the operation. He did my analysis for liver function assessment and the diagnosis came directly from hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver. In June 2009 we started treatment with interferon and ribavirin, body reacted very well after just three months. But after the therapy was completed in December 2010, it was discovered that the disease had returned. Three years ago, however, a new type of drug was used. entered European markets, which, combined with interferon and ribavirin, increased the chances of successfully eliminating the virus from the body. In studies by doctors at the Fundeni Clinical Institute, it was found that the efficiency cited triple therapy (boceprevir or telaprevir, added to the combination of interferon and ribavirin) exceeds 85%. Sabin L. underwent such therapy from January 2012 to February 2013, successfully, as a patient participating in a clinical trial. Although the results have been very good, the triple therapy is not even compensated today by the National Health Insurance House.
Next step: eradication of hepatitis C
Meanwhile, triple therapy is out of date, as internationally renowned specialists pointed out at the biggest event on hepatology - the International Liver Congress, London, April 9-13. "If we identify all the people with hepatitis C, I can promise them that I will be able to cure them. We will soon have access to new therapies which will be approved by the American and European drug agencies by the end of the year, which practically changes the rules of the game.
It revolutionizes everything we knew about the treatment of the disease, "he enthusiastically told us professor of hepatology Graham R. Foster, of the Queen Mary University of London, during the London Congress: Professor Foster talks about drugs called "direct acting antivirals", "no interferon", that is to say without interferon and, implicitly, without its side effects. Several pharmaceutical companies will launch such revolutionary drugs from here the end of the year and the beginning of next year, with an eradication rate of the virus of almost 100% in 12 weeks. After seeing my own eyes, in phase III clinical trials (no - the last step of study before the entry of a drug), the results of the new generation of drugs, I can say without fear that these are miraculous treatments.
Top 4 myths about hepatitis C
1. Once diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, there is nothing more to do.
FALSE. In 2009, in Romania for example, there were around 88,000 cases of liver cirrhosis and 1,700 cases of hepatocarcinoma caused by hepatitis C, according to the Hepatitis C White Paper in Romania. The risk of cirrhosis of the liver infected with HCV is currently extremely limited, since the administration of interferon and ribavirin at this stage of the disease is often impossible, because of serious adverse reactions which worsen the patient's condition. However, the new molecules, presented at this year's International Congress of Liver Diseases, offer great hope to these patients. "92% of participants in the Turquoise-II study, all suffering from cirrhosis by the C virus, were cured in 12 weeks, and 96% - in 24 weeks", according to Professor Fred Poordad, vice-president of the academic department and clinic of the Texas Liver Institute, present at the London Congress.
2. The risky behavior is to blame for the large number of people infected with the hepatitis C virus.
TRUE AND FALSE. The only method of transmitting the hepatitis C virus is blood. "Basically, most of the people currently diagnosed with hepatitis C, cirrhosis with virus C or liver cancer are those who received injections, transfusions, transplants or who underwent surgery before 1995. In in some cases, the cause is represented by medical "accidents", with the use of non-sterile needles and instruments, "said Professor Graham Foster. Of course, most new infections occur mostly in people who use syringes, especially people who inject drugs, experts say. Contrary to the general perception, of some doctors, hepatitis C is not transmitted through unprotected sex, except in exceptional cases.
3. HIV infection is a more serious problem than the hepatitis C virus.
FALSE. Viral hepatitis causes far more deaths than HIV infection, shows the latest study on the subject presented to Congress on hepatitis. The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, showed that in 2010, 11 times more people in the European Union died from viral hepatitis than from HIV. Together, hepatitis B and C cause almost 90,000 deaths a year in the EU, while HIV / AIDS only 8,000 deaths. C virus kills 57,000 Europeans and B virus 31,000