Revolution in the treatment of hepatitis C14 September 2015
Recent news reports that sofosbuvir, a potential cure for the hepatitis C virus (HCV), has been approved for NHS funding. The approval signifies a breakthrough for the healthcare industry and a turning point in the treatment of the HCV.
Dr Graham Foster, Consultant Hepatologist at London Bridge Hospital, has helped develop the medication treatment alongside colleagues Dr Phil Harrison, Dr Terence Wong, and Dr Kosh Agarwal at London Bridge Hospital. He supports the NHS funding of sofosbuvir and believes it is an opportunity to celebrate a turning point in the effective treatment for the virus, with the arrival of the handful of new medications, including ledipasvir-sofosbuvir.
Dr Foster emphasises the distinctions between sofosbuvir and previous treatment options, especially with regard to patient experience. Earlier this year, healthcare body NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) confirmed final guidance on the drug as the recommended treatment option for hepatitis C, so having worked with the medication at London Bridge Hospital for a number of months, he has seen first-hand the impact to those who are infected.
Dr Foster comments, “This is a breakthrough for the disease and a revolution in healthcare, one that could potentially cure hepatitis C and eradicate the virus entirely. It is a wonderful, new, almost side effect free treatment.”
"For over 20 years, the standard treatment for hepatitis C has been interferon-based therapy – a treatment prescribed as an injection for up to 48 weeks. This treatment is associated with severe and common side effects, with three out of four people experiencing one or more of side effects, such as depression, anxiety, dizziness and hair loss. It’s therefore not surprising that it is has been an unpopular choice of treatment, and many have put themselves at risk of cirrhosis and liver damage as a result of discontinuing their treatment or opting out in the first place.
The new treatments available will allow these sufferers to continue with their work and their everyday lives without the debilitation of the injections to their professional and personal lives. We’ve already been implementing the new treatments with patients at London Bridge Hospital, and have seen very promising results.
The key with the new recommended treatment is to find the individuals who are transmitting the virus and prioritise their treatment, in order to initially limit the spread of the disease. We’ve been working on improving the options available to hepatitis C patients with the aim of improving cure rates and preventing transmission.”
Dr Philip Harrison comments, “About a third of people infected with the hepatitis C virus will eventually develop liver cirrhosis, and a number of patients with both chronic hepatitis C and cirrhosis will go on to develop liver cancer. As a result, it’s important that people who are infected choose to have treatment so that they don’t go on to further transmit the virus. New guidance for these treatments will encourage more people to be treated and cured, diminishing and potentially eliminating the spread of the disease.”