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Treating Hep C Should Be Cheaper: Shorter Duration And Generic Drugs Are Effective, Studies Say

Update Date: Apr 19, 2016 05:23 AM EDT

Actress Pamela Anderson was hit with Hepatitis C (HCV) and was able to get cured after 12 weeks of expensive medication. A new study suggests that treating HCV may not need as much time as previously expected. It is also found in another research that generic drugs for HCV are as effective as the branded ones.

Sofosbuvir and ledipasvir, a combination of drugs to treat genotype 1 variant of chronic HCV infection in adults was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in October 2014. This year in February, the approval was expanded to genotypes 4, 5 and 6, according to Medical Daily.

It also covered HCV patients who are suffering from other chronic conditions like cirrhosis and HIV. Harvoni, a branded drug from Gilead Sciences has proven to be universal treatment but has to be taken for 12 weeks.

"Given the high cost of sofosbuvir and ledipasvir, and the associated side effects that occur during treatment, we set out to assess whether shortened treatment duration could be an effective option for acute Hepatitis C patients," said lead author Dr. Katja Deterding in a statement.

The German Liver Foundation sponsored a research called the HepNet Acute HCV IV Study where they recruited 20 patients that has acute HCV (genotype 1) from different health centers across Germany. While the previous study showed that an eight week treatment can be as effective as the full regimen, the researchers tried to cut it even shorter to six weeks.

The participants were checked for their HCV status after four and 12 weeks and it showed that despite the shorter length of treatment, the 20 patients were all had undetectable viral loads after 12 weeks. They also showed a normal healthy liver. However, 30 percent of the patients experienced fatigue as a common side effect.

On the other hand, a report says that low-cost generic antiviral drugs are as safe and effective as expensive drugs in treating patients with HCV. Many people in different countries cannot afford a branded direct-acting antiviral drug that costs as much as $94,000 per patient, UPI reported.

These mass-produced generic versions are available for less than one percent of the retail price of the branded counterparts, said the researchers.

"Our interim data suggests a potential solution for hepatitis C patients in areas where treatment access has been restricted as a result of the high prices demanded for branded treatment," said study author Dr. James Freeman, of GP2U Telehealth in Hobart, Australia.

The study patients from Southeast Asia, Europe, Australia, Canada, Africa and the United States found that the generic direct-acting antiviral drugs ledipasvir, daclatasvir (Daklinza), sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), and ribavirin (Rebetol) were effective just like the branded versions.

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