Hepatitis C treatment is very effective, but lack of funding threatens progress against this disease in veterans.
The last few years has seen nothing short of a medical revolution in treating the viral disease Hepatitis C, an oftentimes chronic infection that can cause severe liver damage and cancer.
Prior to 2010, available medications only helped treat some strains of the virus, in some patients. Many people who seemingly recovered would relapse, while others would eventually just fail to respond to any treatment. In 2011, however, the FDA approved the first of a class of drugs known as direct-acting antivirals (DAA), which have now been proven to completely eradicate the virus in a vast majority of patients. Even newer versions of these drugs have done so with fewer side effects and against a greater array of strains.
A new study of veterans living with the disease, published Tuesday in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, shows just how dramatic this leap in treatment has been. But it also illustrates the hurdles patients have and will continue to face in trying to obtain a life-saving cure.
Researchers studied data from the U.S. Veterans Affairs national healthcare system, looking at more than 100,000 antiviral treatments doled out for Hepatitis C between 1999 to 2015. In 1999, they found, only 19.2 percent of treated patients were successfully cured; by 2010, that percentage jumped to 36 percent; but by 2015, 90.5 percent were cured. And out of the total 57,500 patients cured by the VA, just about half had been seen in 2015 alone.
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