Hepatitis C is a serious problem as it can be contracted in many ways and when undetected and/or untreated can have fatal consequences. The most serious consequence is liver failure or cancer. But now the FDA has approved a hopeful new drug to treat this condition.
“U.S. regulators on Friday approved the use of Johnson & Johnson's Olysio, also known as simeprevir, as a treatment for chronic infection with the liver-destroying hepatitis C virus. Hepatitis C affects about 3.2 million Americans, killing more than 15,000 each year, mostly from illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.” according to NBC.
NBC reports, “Olysio, a protease inhibitor that blocks a specific protein needed by the virus to replicate, is to be used in combination with interferon, given by injection, and ribavirin, another pill.”
The virus often goes undetected; it is usually passed on through blood that is already infected with the virus. “Olysio was shown in clinical trials to cure patients with a shorter duration of treatment. Drug makers have been racing to develop more effective, easier-to-tolerate antivirals to treat hepatitis C. Wall Street analysts have forecast annual sales of billions of dollars for new drugs that would allow doctors to skip use of interferon, which can cause severe flu-like side effects,” according to NBC.
As a result of organ screening, the number of people infected with Hepatitis C has gone down in the past decade; but NBC states that it is still considered a serious issue. “Still, many older adults remain at risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has called for baby boomers to be routinely tested for the virus. Olysio is a member of the same class of drugs as Merck & Co's Victrelis and Vertex Pharmaceuticals' Incivek.”