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    Why a new oral therapy for hepatitis C may be a game changer

    Hepatitis C can have ophthalmic manifestations, although they are either very rare or not always recognized (or both)

    A recent study—conducted in Spain, England, Germany and the United States—has reported remarkable success with an oral therapy for hepatitis C.1 The study included more than 200 people with infection severe enough to cause cirrhosis of the liver. After 12 weeks of treatment, 191 of 208 (92%) recipients were found to be free of infection, and the success rate after 24 weeks of treatment increased to 165 of 172 (96%) subjects. Reported side effects were fatigue, headache, and nausea.

    This is a game changer. Hepatitis C is remarkably prevalent in the United States, with close to 4 million people infected. According to the Centers for Disease Control, infection is most prevalent among Americans born between 1945 and 1965. About 20,000 people are estimated to be newly infected each year, with 75% to 85% of those infections becoming chronic. Patients suffer from both hepatic and extra-hepatic manifestations, and the risk of transmission via bodily fluids, caregivers via needle sticks, and contamination of the blood supply have been problems.

    Current therapies have been limited by the combination of unimpressive efficacy and impressive side effects, as well as very high cost. About 1% to 5% of people with chronic HVC infection will die from either the cirrhosis or liver cancer.

    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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