Liver Health

Updated 11 August 2017

New hep C drug works much faster

There is a promising new treatment option available for hepatitis C, a serious illness that affects the liver.

Mavyret (glecaprevir and pibrentasvir) has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat adults with certain types of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The combination drug is the first approved therapy for hepatitis C to require as few as eight weeks of treatment, the FDA said in a news release. Other therapies require treatment of 12 weeks or longer.

At the time of publishing this article, it was not yet clear when Mavyret will be approved by the MRC and used in South Africa.

"This approval provides a shorter treatment duration for many patients, and also a treatment option for certain patients who were not successfully treated with other direct-acting antiviral treatments," said Dr Edward Cox, director of the FDA's Office of Antimicrobial Products.

What is hepatitis C?

Health24 defines hepatitis C as inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis (HCV) is caused by a viral infection. Inflammation of the liver can potentially lead to reduced liver function or liver failure. Symptoms and complications may include jaundice, a yellowing of the skin; bleeding; abdominal fluid accumulation; infections; liver cancer and death.

There are at least six distinct genotypes (strains). About three-quarters of Americans have genotype 1. As many as 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic HCV, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the South African Gastroenterology Review the exact prevalence of HVC in South Africa is not known, but is estimated around 0.12% and 1.7%.

Common side effects

Mavyret was evaluated in clinical studies of some 2 300 adults with all six genotypes. At least 92% of people who took the drug had no HCV detected in the blood 12 weeks after completing treatment, the FDA said.

The most common side effects of the drug included headache, fatigue and nausea.

The drug shouldn't be taken by people with severe liver scarring (cirrhosis), or by those taking the antiviral drugs atazanavir and firampin. People who are simultaneously infected with hepatitis B virus should be monitored carefully while taking Mavyret, the agency added.

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