Magazine article Drug Topics

Game-Changing Meds Deliver New Hope for Hepatitis C Patients

Magazine article Drug Topics

Game-Changing Meds Deliver New Hope for Hepatitis C Patients

Article excerpt

IM MY VIEW

Patients living with the hepatitis C vims (HCV) have been a vital force in providing education about the disease, encouraging testing, easing the associated stigma, and advocating for research and development of newer, less invasive therapies. As we observe Hepatitis Awareness Month throughout May, advances in HCV treatment offer new hope for a cure to more than five million hepatitis C patients in the United States and nearly 175 million others throughout the world.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease most commonly spread through blood-to-blood contact. If undiagnosed, the disease can lead to cirrhosis, liver transplants, and liver cancer. HCV is now responsible for more annual deaths in the United States than the total of HIV/AIDS deaths. And about one-third of HIV/AIDS deaths are attributed to complications of hepatitis C as a co-morbid condition.

New cures

Effective new cures for the hepatitis C virus now bring real hope to U.S. patients. Older HCV treatments carried significant risk; greater likelihood of complications, often-debilitating side effects, or harmful adverse reactions; and low cure rates. The treatment regimens led to a success rate of less than 50% for patients who completed the course of treatment, while up to 80% of patients discontinued treatment altogether, usually on the advice of their physicians.

A recent study comparing older and newer treatments concluded that newer medications provide much higher cure rates, exceeding 95% with a single 12-week therapy.

Barriers to access

While these new treatments are available, in the private health insurance marketplace some patients will not be able to afford them and will continue to suffer needlessly as their disease worsens.

Health insurers use "specialty-tier" pricing structures that place vital medications beyond the reach of many patients. These practices jeopardize patient health and discriminate against patients living with a range of chronic and life-threatening conditions, including viral hepatitis.

In California, patient groups such as the California Chronic Care Coalition have urged health officials to take action to end discriminatory specialty-tier insurance practices and ensure patient access to affordable specialty medications. …

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