Chronic Hepatitis C has often been referred to as the Silent Killer as most patients with the disease does not know they have it while overtime the virus continuously causes damage to the liver leading to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Statistics in the United States showed that liver failure due to hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants.
Traditionally, Hepatitis C treatment have been treated with a 48 week course of weekly injection of interferon coupled with ribavirin. The cure rates averaged lower than 50%. Many patients complained that the commonly experienced side effects — including nausea, diarrhea, itchy skin rashes, insomnia, and severe depression — were worse than the disease itself. Patients often had to discontinue therapy as interferon injections can cause serious adverse effects including decreased red and white blood cell counts.
In 2013, the US FDA unanimously approved Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) with breakthrough therapy designation for the treatment of chronic Hepatitis C. The following year the FDA approved Harvoni, the first fixed-dose combination medication which includes sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and ledipasvir, These medications known as direct acting antivirals (DAAs) work by attacking the hepatitis c virus (HCV) directly and stopping the virus from making copies of itself. Clinical studies have demonstrated that DAAs have greater than 95% average cure rates for Hepatitis C. Most DAAs come in tablet forms that only requires a once daily oral intake of a single tablet without the need for interferon injection. Side-effects from DAAs are significantly less common compared to interferon and ribavirin and come in much milder forms as well – including fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and insomnia. The duration of therapy with DAAs are only 12 weeks for patients without cirrhosis and 24 weeks for those who has cirrhosis. The developments of DAAs provides revolutionary advancements in the treatment of Hepatitis C, however, they have been priced at jaw-dropping rates in many countries making access to these life-saving medications unaffordable for the average working people. In the United States, Sovaldi has been priced at $84,000 ($1000 per pill) for a 12 week course, while the newer Harvoni costs $95,000.