Cure Rate for Experimental Hepatitis C Drug Tops 95%
But high costs of newer medications is a concern, experts say
Since many people with hepatitis C remain symptom-free, the medical community has not agreed on whom to treat.
With these new cures, that question becomes easier to answer, Carey said. "When you have a treatment that is this simple, effective and free of side effects, there are fewer and fewer reasons to think about withholding treatment," he noted.
"The major barrier is cost," he added.
Whether the new drug will be priced like Sovaldi, the $1,000-a-day medication, is still unknown.
With Sovaldi, the necessary three-month course costs $90,000, plus any other drug expenses and medical care.
Carey said some insurance companies cover the cost of the drug, while others have denied it.
Cost is even more significant in light of the millions of Baby Boomers who are five times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than other adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It's going to get harder as time goes on for insurance companies not to cover the cost of these drugs," Carey said. "This is a curable disease."
According to a CBS News report, lawmakers and insurance companies complain that Gilead Sciences, the maker of Sovaldi, is trying to "milk desperate patients." Gilead says that, despite the high price, Sovaldi is cheaper because it "cures patients quickly and eliminates a long and expensive treatment using other drugs."
For this phase 3 trial of ABT-450 -- typically the last trial needed for FDA approval -- nearly 400 patients were randomly assigned to take a placebo or a pill containing ABT-450 plus the drugs ombitasvir and ritonavir. These patients also took two additional drugs, dasabuvir and ribavirin. All patients had been treated before, but saw their diseases return or had a poor response or no response to treatment.
Taking the ABT-450 combination, 96.3 percent of the patients responded, the researchers said.
Previous research showed that patients who had never been treated also responded to this combination.
Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City, said the results look promising for the millions of people with hepatitis C.