News / Health

Effectiveness of Hepatitis C Drugs Praised; Cost a Concern

Jessica Berman
Doctors who treat hepatitis C are hailing the development of drugs that can effectively eradicate the infection, which is a leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer worldwide.  At the same time, their focus now has turned to reducing the high cost of treatment so that it’s accessible to developing countries, where 80 percent of people are infected.

An estimated 150 to 185 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C and many don’t know it.  That’s because the virus is largely silent until late symptoms appear, including grinding fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain and jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes.

But pivotal studies of new antiviral drugs conducted in developed countries show they knock out upwards of 90 percent of all hepatitis C infections, promising to revolutionize treatment in low- and middle income countries.

Channa Jayasekera is with the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Stanford University in California.  

Jayasekera spoke via Skype from the International Liver Congress meeting in London, where the new treatment options for hepatitis C are getting a lot of attention.

“This is really a landmark achievement in all of medicine, I would say, because it’s one of the few times where we’ve been able to definitively eradicate a disease with a short course of oral therapy," said Jayasekera.
 
Experts say the oral medications may even be more effective in the developing world because people there harbor different, possibly more responsive, types of the virus than in the West.  

But a three-month course of the second generation antiviral drugs in the West costs between $85,000 and $90,000, according to Jayasekera.

However, with the issuance of guidelines by the World Health Organization for the diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C with oral medications in low- and moderate income countries, there are moves to bring down the cost.

Jayasekera says competition among the handful of pharmaceutical companies, and negotiations between manufacturers and governments as well as insurers, eventually will make treatment affordable.

The companies that produce the pills, according to Jayasekera, also are in the process of securing licenses for the manufacture of generic drugs for distribution in countries where they are most needed.

“So, if a company that is selling these drugs feels that it is ethical and moral and in the spirit of corporate social responsibility appropriate to ensure that these drugs are also available to people outside of richer countries, then that prerogative is there," said  Jayasekera.

Jayasekera adds it will be necessary for each country to prioritize who gets treated first, in order to hold down costs and not overwhelm health care systems.  

Jayasekera made his observations in an article in New England Journal of Medicine. 

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid