TUESDAY, February 12, 2019 (HealthDay News) – New (and Expensive) Hepatitis C medicines, such as Harvoni and Sovaldirespect their promises and significantly reduce the chances of patients liver cancer and death, a new French study finds.
The news did not surprise many an American liver expert.
Bernstein thinks that "this large study provides the best evidence so far to support the recommendations that all patients with chronic hepatitis C infection should be treated with [these drugs]. "
According to the study's baseline data, about 71 million people worldwide are suffering from chronic infection with hepatitis C, which can cause debilitating or life-threatening diseases such as cirrhosis, liver disease and liver cancer. Over the last 15 years, these complications have tripled and it is expected that they will peak between 2030 and 2035, the researchers said.
The new research was funded by drug manufacturers and included nearly 9,900 patients in France.
About three-quarters of patients were treated with the new class of medications, called "direct-acting antivirals," while the other quarter was not.
Direct-acting antivirals act quickly – over a period of about three months – to push the hepatitis C virus, which damages the liver, to undetectable levels in patients' blood.
In the study, after a median follow-up of nearly three years, 218 patients died and 258 were diagnosed with liver cancer.
Compared to untreated patients, patients treated with direct-acting antivirals were 52% less likely to die prematurely (84 deaths per 10,000 untreated patients compared to 40 per 10,000 treated patients). In addition, treated patients were 33% less likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer in one year (129 out of 10,000 in untreated patients compared to 86 out of 10,000 in treated patients), the researchers said. .
At the beginning of the study, in a subgroup of more than 3,000 patients with cirrhosis of the liver, the same risk reductions were observed in patients receiving the new drugs, provided that they had reaches an undetectable rate of hepatitis C virus in the blood.