New drugs prove effective in curing Hepatitis C

MINNEAPOLIS - There's a new group of drugs proving very effective in curing Hepatitis C and very quickly.

Hepatitis C, transmitted through blood or bodily fluids, can sit undetected in the body for decades and eventually causes liver damage.

Richard Hollenzer has had Hepatitis C for years. Now he hopes to soon be cured.

He's taking the new anti-viral drug, Sovaldi, that's been show to cure the disease more than 90 percent of the time and within three months or less.

Hollenzer said, "With this new treatment, we're looking for it to totally clear it out of my system."

New drugs like Sovaldi are a big change from the traditional treatment, which had been a year of interferon injections that made patients nauseous and sick and had as little as a 50 percent success rate.

Now, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine this week shows another similar new drug has a cure rate of more than 95 percent.

"These drugs look extremely promising," says Dr. Kay Schwebke, an infectious disease specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center. "I look forward to a treatment that's easier on patients and I look forward to one that's successful."

The problem with the new drugs currently on the market is the price. They can be about $1,000 a day. But Schwebke says, "At this point, health plans in Minnesota are paying for this medication," as long as you go through a strict approval process.

Richard went through the traditional year-long treatment for his Hepatitis C once.

"You feel nauseated, you feel fatigued," he said.

His treatment now with the new drug also includes interferon injections, but over just three months instead of a year. And this time, there's a good chance he won't need to be treated again.

"I'm planning on it curing my Hep C," he said.

The development of these drugs is moving fast. Experts hope, by the beginning of next year, patients will only need to take pills, and maybe only one kind of pill, eliminating interferon altogether.


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