hep cTwo new treatment options for patients with hepatitis C are a step closer to being recommended for use in the NHS, following draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

The draft guidance recommends simeprevir, in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, as an option for treating both genotypes 1 and 4 chronic hepatitis C in adults.

Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver and is thought that some 160,000 people are chronically infected with the virus in England. It is spread by contact with infected blood. The virus can cause inflammation of, and damage to the liver, preventing it from working properly.

About 1 in 3 people infected with the hepatitis C virus will eventually develop liver cirrhosis, where normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. A small percentage of people with chronic hepatitis C and cirrhosis may require a liver transplant and some may develop liver cancer.

The aims of treatment are to clear the virus from the blood to prevent progression of liver disease, and to prevent the transmission of the hepatitis C virus.

Simeprevir is administered orally and works by inhibiting the replication of the hepatitis C virus.

Professor Carole Longson, Director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “The previous draft guidance did not recommend simeprevir for treating genotype 4 chronic hepatitis C and asked the company for more information on its use for this group of patients.

“Based on the information received the independent Appraisal Committee concluded that simeprevir, in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, is a cost effective treatment option for people with genotypes 1 and 4 chronic hepatitis C.”