By Suzanne Hodsden
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has released a new report detailing twenty-five years of Hepatitis C research, advances, and current areas of unmet need. According to the report, there is still a substantial amount of work to be done to advance the treatment of the disease and to ease the significant financial burden it places on the patient and health care system.
Hepatitis C (HCV), a virus discovered in 1989, was once viewed as incurable. Twenty-five years of research later, the cure rate has significantly improved. “New medicines have resulted in dramatic progress with potential cure rates rising from 6 percent to 52 percent to more than 90 percent today,” says PhRMA.
Many of the current treatments for the medicines have been discovered within the last few years. Medvir and Johnson & Johnson’s Simeprevir, a protease inhibitor, used in combination with traditional treatments, was approved by the FDA in 2013.
Soon after, the FDA approved Gilead’s Sofosbuvir, a polymerase inhibitor also used in conjunction with other treatments, which bumped the cure rate to 90 percent.
In 2014, the FDA approved the use of these two medicines together, which boosted cure rates to over 94 percent with a reduced showing of side-effects and a shorter duration of treatment.
PhRMA credits the knowledge gleaned from 77 failed clinical trials between 1998 and 2014 with the development of 12 successful new medicines. Furthermore, researchers have been able to apply a lot of data gathered in HIV/AIDS clinical research to investigations into HCV.
John J. Castellani, CEO of PhRMA, remarked that the new generation of HCV treatments were “transforming lives and helping to avert billions of dollars in unnecessary hospitalizations and other costly medical services. Forthcoming treatments are projected to provide even greater cure rates and shorter duration of treatment, vastly improving patient’s health and quality of life.”
PhRMA reports that there are currently 75 new medicines undergoing clinical trial for the treatment of HCV. Researchers hope the new medicines will reduce treatment times, lessen the severity of side effects, and tackle more aggressive strains of the disease.
According to the National Medical Association (NMA), there are 3.2 million people living with Hepatitis C in the United States, and the disease is responsible for an estimated 53,000 deaths per year. PhRMA reports the virus is the leading cause of liver transplants, and it is largely responsible for the development of liver cancer.
As such, the HCV costs the average patient $24,000 and as much as $60,000 in severe end-stage cases. If the disease develops into liver cancer, that cost can skyrocket to between $112,000 to $500,000, says PhRMA.