Progress in hepatitis C treatment is astonishing

Professor Geoff McCaughan, head of Centenary’s liver program.

Professor Geoff McCaughan, head of Centenary’s liver program.

Prof Geoff McCaughan has an editorial in today’s Medical Journal of Australia saying that hepatitis C therapy is undergoing radical and rapid change. He predicts that within five years we will have short-duration anti-hepatitis C therapy with minimal side-effects and cure rates above 90%.

The burden of hepatitis C (HCV) associated liver failure and liver cancer is rising so these new drugs are just in time.

The next generation drugs telaprevir and boceprevir, approved by the TGA in 2011 for use by patients with the most common genotype 1 of the blood-borne viral infection, are significantly improving outcomes for patients living with hepatitis C.

A review, published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today (Monday, June 4), describes how these drugs, when used in conjunction with existing therapy, boost the percentage of patients who clear the virus from 45% to 70%.

Not only do the new drugs allow more patients to be cured, they also work much faster than conventional therapy. The review indicates that adding the drugs to conventional therapy allowed treatment times to be halved, from 12 months to 6 months, for around half of the patients without impacting on outcomes.

“The long duration, side-effects and uncertain outcomes of conventional hepatitis C therapy see many people go without treatment,” said Prof McCaughan, who is head of the Liver Injury and Cancer group at the Centenary Institute and a physician based at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

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