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Affordable hepatitis C treatment close to launch

The cost of the new treatment, which equates to $300 over twelve week treatment period, represent a considerable reduction from the sums charged by the major global pharmaceutical companies for equivalent treatment regimes, according to The Guardian. The new treatment is a combination drug and one which indicates a high treatment success rate. This regime could go someway to assisting the estimated 71 million people worldwide with this particular form of viral hepatitis.

In terms of the efficacy of the combination treatment, reports suggest that over ninety percent of the test subjects given the treatment showed a marked reduction in the viral load. This is to the extent that 97 percent of test subjects have been declared to be cured of the disease.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or cancer. There are an estimated 400,000 deaths wax year. Hepatitis C often doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. This means many people have the infection without realizing it.

The new treatment has been developed in Malaysia and in Thailand, were phase II and III clinical trials have been taking place. These trials involved the use of two tablets (for the combination treatment). The tablets are ravidasvir, which is a newly formulated medicine; and sofosbuvir, which is an established drug and it appears on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most effective and safe medicines needed in a health system.

The cost of pharmaceutical medicines, especially for the developing world, raises ethical issues in relation to profiteering. For example, the cost of treatment from the company Gilead, which manufactures the drug combination drug ledipasvir/sofosbuvir under the trade name Harvoni, is $48,000.

To challenge this high price the new drugs come from a not for profit organisation called the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. The organisation has worked with an Egyptian pharmaceutical body called Pharco Pharmaceuticals in order to produce affordable medications that can be manufactured on a mass scale. Funding was provided by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the Institut Pasteur. Once all of the clinical trials are complete and registration has taken place, the combination therapy will be first made available to those with hepatitis C living in Malaysia.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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