Eradicating Hepatitis C: New Research Points to a Cure for this Deadly Disease


In medicine, cures for diseases are few and far between. Oftentimes, a patient is treated for a condition, but is reliant on a medication as part of treatment. Once they stop taking the medication, the disease returns.

The cure for hepatitis C is an actual cure. Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center led a team of scientists from three continents and 15 countries to perform and publish the results of a pivotal clinical trial.

“During the clinical trial, patients diagnosed with hepatitis C took a new pill-based medicine once a day for 12 weeks,” said Michael Charlton, MD, medical director of liver transplantation at Intermountain Medical Center. “We observed a 95 percent success rate in eliminating the disease, even in patients with the most advanced stages of liver disease. And when we compared the pill to the placebo, there are almost no side-effects.”

Hepatitis C is part of a family of viruses that affect the liver. It is only passed through blood-to-blood contact, and unlike its cousins, hepatitis A and hepatitis B, it is impossible to prevent with a vaccine because the hepatitis C virus mutates too quickly. The virus will suppress the immune system and have long-term effects on the host – but most people show no symptoms until they develop liver cancer or liver disease.

Hepatitis C is the most common reason people need liver transplants. However, 20 percent of patients on the liver transplant list die before a suitable liver becomes available.

“Access to this cure for hepatitis C would prevent thousands of people from needing a liver transplant,” said Dr. Charlton. “The fewer people on the list for a liver transplant, the quicker a patient in need can receive the life-saving gift and improve their quality of life.”

In 2010, the World Health Organization made World Hepatitis Day, one of only four official disease-specific world health days. It is celebrated annually on July 28 and is intended to raise awareness about viral hepatitis. You can follow the conversation online using #PreventHepatitis and #4000voices.