Cure a life-threatening disease at a fraction of the cost – sounds like a great offer, right? The new generation of hepatitis C medications have been a blessing, since they cure more than 90% of patients, but these medications do come at a high price point. Generally it costs more than $50,000 per patient to successfully treat hepatitis C.
Although the price of the medication is currently expected to stay the same, what might change is how long the treatment process lasts. Shorter treatments (if successful) save money since fewer pills are needed. In a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in San Francisco this month, researchers from Loyola University shared preliminary data showing that the standard 12-week treatment for hepatitis C could be shortened to as little as 6 weeks, while still being effective, in select patients.
This study proposes a personalized medicine technique called modeling-based response-guided therapy that shortens treatment times for specific patients. Patients were identified for a shorter treatment window after the first few weeks of treatment, based on their hepatitis C viral loads. A mathematical model was used to determine which patients would be cured of the infection in differing amounts of time. Some patients needed the full 12 weeks – according to this model – while others would only require 10 weeks, 8 weeks, or even as few as 6 weeks of treatment.
Of the 22 patients treated with this model who had their treatment length determined by the model, only one experienced a relapse. And it should be noted that this patient had the most difficult-to-treat genotype – genotype 3 – of this infection.
A larger study based on this model is currently underway, which promises to provide less expensive but still efficacious hepatitis C treatment in the future.
Press release. Hepatitis C treatment can be shortened in 50 percent of patients, study finds. Loyola University Health System. Nov 12, 2018.