A new oral medicine has been launched to treat hepatitis C, drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb has announced.

Daklinza (daclatasvir), in conjunction with other agents, offers the potential of a cure in up to 98% per cent of patients with hepatitis C genotype 1, 89% in patients with genotype 3 and 100% in genotype 4 (when combined with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin). 

“Over the last decade we have seen an alarming rise in the number of deaths and hospital visits caused by people with hepatitis C,” said Dr Kosh Agarwal, Consultant Hepatologist and Transplant Physician at the Institute of Liver Studies, King’s College Hospital. 

“The launch of this treatment is welcome news as it represents an important new option for patients with chronic hepatitis C that can offer high cure rates for some patients, and be taken as a pill. Another significant point is that this treatment removes the need to use interferon, which is a widely used medicine that often makes patients feel extremely unwell, for example, causing flu-like symptoms, fatigue or depression. Diagnosis and treatment of this disease is fundamental to countering the worrying trend in its prevalence, and having effective therapy options such as this is an important part of this step.” 

In January 2014, daclatasvir was brought forward for priority review by the European Medicines Agency, recognising the unmet need that exists in the hepatitis C patient population. Its submission included data from a trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014. 

In this study, daclatasvir was combined with the NS5B inhibitor, sofosbuvir. Results showed that 98% of previously untreated patients (n=126) and 98% of previously treated patients (n=41) with hepatitis C genotype 1, experienced 12 week sustained virologic response (SVR12), which is widely recognised as a clinical cure. In the genotype 1 population (one of the most prevalent in the UK), the 98% of patients cured included some who had already failed on currently available treatment options.

“We are delighted by today’s announcement,” said Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust. “Each new treatment for hepatitis C takes us closer to making the elimination of hepatitis C a realistic possibility, by improving both cure rates and tolerability. With only 3% of people with hepatitis C in England accessing treatment each year, it is crucial patients are able to access new treatments as early as possible so they have the opportunity to get cured of this cancer-causing virus.”