In the News: The Most Important Development in Liver Disease in the Last Decade

By: Kapil Chopra, M.D.

As of November/December, two antiviral agents were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adult patients with chronic hepatitis C: Simeprevir [Olysio] ,  developed by Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division Janssen Pharmaceutica, and Sofosbuvir [Sovaldi],  developed  by Gilead Sciences.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne disease that infects between three and 10 million Americans and is blamed for 15,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
We are currently in a new era with respect to the management of hepatitis C viral infection.  After almost a decade, these new antiviral therapies are now available and provide hope to hepatitis C patients by improving the cure rate of the disease and significantly shortening the duration of treatment.
Until the development of these new drugs, treatment normally required a one-year regimen of pills and injections that caused flu-like symptoms and was only 50 percent effective in curing patients.  Now, findings show that when these new medications are added to standard treatment, about 85-90 percent of previously untreated patients are cured and nearly 60-70 percent of those who had failed previous standard of care therapy were cured.  The team of specialists at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases is proud to have been involved in the evaluation process and clinical trials of these therapies.
However, while these results are promising, we need to keep in mind that the management of these medications is quite complex and patients still require a multidisciplinary approach to achieve a successful outcome.  It’s important that hepatitis C patients seek broad spectrum care from their doctor, so they can be evaluated for these newer antiviral therapies and monitored for adverse events.
Kapil Chopra, M.D., is the clinical director of Hepatology for the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases.
The team at the UPMC Center for Liver Diseases is comprised of physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical pharmacologists, nurse coordinators, and psychiatrists, all dedicated to the management of chronic hepatitis C and is well poised to implement the care of patients using new advances in drug therapy.  For information about the Center, please call 800-447-1651 or 412-647-1170. Resources are also available through the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases