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Surprising Science

New Antiviral Drug Cures Hepatitis C

A new antiviral drug that recently won federal approval to treat hepatitis C can effectively cure most patients of the infectious disease, which has been notoriously difficult to treat.

What’s the Latest Development?

“Roughly 80 percent of patients with the most common strain of hepatitis C and who had either never undergone treatment before or had suffered a relapse were cured when they took the antiviral Incivek in addition to the standard drugs, according to one study led by researchers at California Pacific Medical Center and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. That is a marked improvement over the previous treatment, which cured less than half of those patients. Most patients in the study were able to stop treatment after 24 weeks instead of the standard 48 weeks—a significant change, because the drugs can have brutal side effects.”

What’s the Big Idea?

“Hepatitis C is a viral infection that is transmitted through the blood, similar to H.I.V. Like H.I.V., it has long carried a stigma that can prevent people from being screened for the virus or seeking treatment. Patients are considered cured of hepatitis C when the virus is no longer detectable in their blood, but it is possible for traces of the virus to remain, and people may have relapses. About 4 million Americans are thought to be infected with hepatitis C, although public health officials believe 75 percent of them don’t know it.”


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