Experimental Drugs for Hepatitis C Offer Hope for Effective Treatment, Fewer Side Effects

Patrizia Cazzaniga had heard the horror stories about early treatments for hepatitis C – multiple daily pills and weekly shots for up to a year, side effects that could be debilitating, and a cure rate of only about 40 percent. According to a March 11, 2014 press release from the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center, after a shorter and less intensive treatment with experimental drugs at the UT Southwestern Medical Center that ended in October, Mrs. Cazzaniga is now virus-free three months past treatment. She’s thrilled. “If you don’t get treatment, you can get cancer or cirrhosis. That scared me. Now I feel great, my energy has come back, and I don’t have trouble with my stomach anymore,” said Mrs. Cazzaniga, 57, who took part in one of 10 current clinical trials testing new hepatitis drugs at UT Southwestern. “These new drugs are much more potent and effective,” said Dr. William M. Lee, Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and local site investigator for these ongoing national and international drug trials. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4.1 million people carry the hepatitis C virus, with 3.2 million of them chronically infected. Further, CDC data show that about 15,000 Americans infected with the virus die annually from liver disease. About 75 percent of those infected do not know they have hepatitis C, because symptoms may not occur until later stages of the disease. For years, the standard treatment was six ribavirin capsules daily and weekly peginterferon shots. The treatment period was long – nearly a year – and side effects could include body aches, fatigue, headaches, anxiety, or depression.
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