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    Hepatitis 'C' Cures Now Common

    Existing Treatments Eradicate Hepatitis C Virus

    Not All Respond continued...

    He adds that roughly 70% of infected Americans have genotype 1, a genetic type of the disease that tends to be less responsive to treatment than other genotypes.

    Bruce Bacon, MD, of St. Louis University, tells WebMD that specialists know much more now than they did a few years ago about individualizing interferon treatment.

    Patients who respond very quickly may not need to be treated for as long, while those who respond slowly may need a longer course of treatment -- as long as 1.5 years for very slow responders.

    Bacon, who directs the division of hepatology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, says many patients -- and even their primary care physicians -- still do not understand that HCV infection can be cured.

    “The overwhelming perception is that this is a disease that can be controlled, but not cured,” he says. “That is why infected people are often hesitant to even consider treatment.”

    Better Treatments to Come

    The message, the experts agree, is that a cure is possible, even for people who already have liver damage and for those with conditions like HIV co-infection.

    They also agree that highly anticipated new treatments could improve cure rates in the years to come.

    Phase II trials of highly specific drugs that target HCV are now under way, and Bacon says they could be approved within two to three years.

    Vierling says he has high hopes that a multidrug approach to HCV treatment, similar to the approach that has turned HIV from a uniformly deadly to largely manageable disease, can improve treatment outcomes for a larger number of patients.

    “New drugs may allow us to use existing treatments at lower doses or for shorter periods,” he says. “The future looks bright.”

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