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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs