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UTHSC Announces Hepatitis C Cure Using Drugs Already On The Market

UT Health Science Center

Today, Monday, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day and a local researcher has published a paper about a cure for Hepatitis C that he says is different and more available than a previous cure announced earlier this year.

The World Hepatitis Day website has a fun little diddy with hand puppets singing about the very serious disease. The song says viral hepatitis kills 1.5 million people around the world each year, the same number that die from HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Eric Lawitz, a clinical professor at the UT Health Science Center’s School of Medicine, led the clinical trials of a combination of drugs already in use that he said used together, cured 93% of patients in 12 weeks. 

"The results I published in The Lancet is a combination of two medications, sofosbuvir and simeprevir. Both separately are approved in combination with interferon for Hepatitis C. But the novelty in the paper that I published is that they're combined together for the first time and used without interferon and without ribavirin," Lawitz said. 

Interferon is not considered effective, with less than a 50% cure rate and side effects so bad that people would forego treatment. Previous treatment protocols also called for a regimen of shots and up to 18 tablets a day for up to 48 weeks. 

Lawitz said this study is different from one in April, in which a cocktail of four drugs was used with similar results. Lawitz said he was part of that study too.

"This combination is the use of two agents, both of which are already on the market and approved -- not approved together -- but this is a combination that is able to have prescriptions written potentially today," he said. 

The UT Health Science Center hopes the study will encourage people to get tested for Hep C., especially those born between 1945 and 1965.

Eileen Pace is a veteran radio and print journalist with a long history of investigative and feature reporting in San Antonio and Houston, earning more than 50 awards for investigative reporting, documentaries, long-form series, features, sports stories, outstanding anchoring and best use of sound.