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No evidence that $40,000 ‘miracle’ drug cures hepatitis C

The $40,000 medicine may rid the blood of the virus but experts weren’t convinced it could prevent deaths

A medicine hailed as a ‘miracle’ drug that could eliminate hepatitis C may not actually cure the disease, a study claims.

Sick patients were offered hope with a new $40,000 direct-acting antiviral drug, which boasted it could clear the virus from the blood within 12 weeks.

The staggering price of the medicine was worth it to some because the contagious liver disease can lead to cancer and death.

Now researchers claim that although the drug may rid the blood of the virus there is no valid evidence that it completely rids the body of the infection.

The research on direct-acting antiviral drugs (DAAs) was conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration, an independent global network of researchers.

The experts concluded: ‘The lack of valid evidence and the possibility of potentially harming people with chronic hepatitis ought to be considered before treating people with hepatitis C with DAAs.’

In short, the scientists stated the drug may eliminate hepatitis C from the bloodstream but there wasn’t evidence the medicine would actually save lives.

The study claimed the virus could still be in the body and lead to an end-stage liver disease.

The conclusion was made after a team of scientists compiled results of DAA trials from different manufacturers.

Experts said the trials done by these companies did not properly examine to see if the symptoms of hepatitis C or if mortality rates were impacted by the DAAs.

Janus Christian Jakobsen, chief physician at a clinical trial unit in Copenhagen, said to the Guardian: ‘It is never possible to show that something does not work, but there is no evidence [that they do].

‘Our results indicate [the drugs] may have no clinical effect.’

AbbVie, a company making DAAs, countered that they were not going to recognize the report’s conclusions.

In a statement to the Guardian the company said: ‘We do not recognize the conclusions of this report, as both controlled trials and real world experience contradict its findings.

‘A cure in [hepatitis C] is defined as undetectable virus in the blood 12 weeks after completing treatment and, in the UK, fewer than one percent of people treated with AbbVie’s therapy did not achieve this.’

Hepatitis C is inflammation of the liver and there is no preventive vaccine.

Greg Allman

It is spread through blood-to-blood contact such as sharing needles, razors and toothbrushes and can be passed on at birth by infected mothers.

The virus tends to develop into a chronic infection after six months and the infection attacks the liver, leading to cirrhosis or liver cancer.

The five-year relative survival rate for people with localized liver cancer – i.e. it has not spread – is about 31 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.

Around three million people in the United States are living with chronic hepatitis and most aren’t aware that they are infected, according to the CDC.

In the UK, an estimated 215,000 people have the infection.

Rock legend Greg Allman died of liver cancer at the age of 69 years old on May 27. It was 10 years after he was diagnosed with hepatitis C.

Deaths from liver cancer have doubled since the mid-1980s. One of the biggest drivers behind the rocketing rates is the high rate of hepatitis C infection among baby boomers – those born from 1945 to 1962.

Written by Cheyenne Roundtree for The Daily Mail ~ June 8, 2017.

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