New Hepatitis C Drugs Completely Cure Virus In 12 Weeks, But Cost More Than $70,000 [VIDEO]
The United States is seeing a brighter future for people with hepatitis C. Newer treatments for the disease have generated positive results that it made doctors hopeful from the complete removal of the virus from the bloodstream.
The new prescription drugs can eliminate 95 percent of the virus from the infected person's bloodstream, which means that the virus isn't detectable anymore. The medications' biggest advantages include a safe procedure and low side effects.
The medications also work fast, with numerous patients treated in only 12 weeks. The drugs, however, can be really expensive, CBS News reported.
In June 2016, federal health officials in the country approved a pill called Epclusa as treatment for all major types of hepatitis C. Gilead Sciences, the pill's manufacturer, sells the medication for approximately $890 per piece or $74,760 for 12 weeks.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is urging people most likely to acquire the virus to undergo testing. Baby boomers or Generation X (born between 1945 and early-to-mid 1960s) are more likely to get infected with the virus than other age demographics, the CDC advised.
The reason why Hepatitis C is more prevalent among baby boomers is because the condition is at its highest peak from the 1960s until the 1980s. Baby boomers probably got infected from medical equipment or procedures that were carried out before safer protocols and tougher infection controls were initiated. By 1992, the government implemented extensive screening for contaminated blood and blood products.
It attacks the liver, with its chronic or most severe form possibly leading to more dangerous conditions such as cirrhosis (liver scarring) and liver cancer. Around 2.7 to 3.9 million people in the U.S. got infected by the virus, with 75 to 85 percent of them developing chronic infection, according to CDC.
The condition is contagious, meaning it can spread from one person to another via sexual contact and infected needles, syringes and other apparatus used to inject drugs. Personal care items like razors and toothbrushes can also spread the virus if it comes into contact with the blood.
Pregnant mothers who have the virus can transfer it to their unborn child, too. Acute hepatitis C, the mild version of the illness, usually doesn't exhibit symptoms and people may be unaware that they have it. But when symptoms do show up they may include fever, fatigue, joint pain, jaundice, vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, appetite loss and clay-colored stool.