Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne viral infection in the United States, affecting more than four million people. The deadly disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Now, there is a new era of hepatitis C drugs that could cure the disease,without side effects.
Gardening is a creative release for Linda Cornwall, but she never would have imagined the viral seed that had taken root inside her. Despite having no risk factors, she was diagnosed with hepatitis C.
"I was shocked to say the least," Cornwall said.
The standard treatment is injections of interferon, an immune stimulant that can lead to severe anemia and rash.
"The risk was worse than the disease," Cornwall said.
Now, a new class of interferon-free drugs, known as Direct Acting Anti-Virals could treat hepatitis C without the side effects. Dr. Paul Thuluvath said the different D.A.A combinations are in phase 2 and phase 3 trials.
"Most likely, it will end up with two drugs combined into one pill. So, they’ll take one pill a day for three months. We will cure 95 percent of hepatitis C," said Thuluvath, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
After taking part in one of the trials, Cornwall has good news.
"I just found out today I'm still undetectable after three months off the medication, and I had no side effects; absolutely none," Cornwall said.
The new drugs could be on the market by 2015. People with hepatitis C can sometimes take decades to show symptoms. About 75 percent of those with the disease don’t know they have it, and most of them are baby boomers. New CDC guidelines recommended anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested, even if they have no known risk factors.