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, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs