New hepatitis C treatment a ‘game changer’

Experts believe we could be on the verge of virtually eliminating a disease that affects as many as 200 million people around the world.

Defeating hepatitis C seems like a very real possibility, with new drugs that are working wonders.

Dr. Brian Conway, a B.C.-based hep C clinician and researcher, recently got to tell Brody Williams that he was cured of the disease.

“It’s a difference of night and day,” said Williams. “Before I was really, really, really sick. Now I have so much energy.”

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Williams previously tried to beat hep C with Interferon, but the treatment was unsuccessful.

The disease, which attacks the liver, sapped his energy, left him with headaches, joint and muscle pain. But Williams persisted, eventually getting Indian Affairs to subsidize a combination of drugs that cured him.

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“He was on a combination of Harvoni, Simeprevir and Ribavirin,” said Dr. Conway. “This more complicated combination, which is still just a few pills a day, was needed because this was the sixth time that we had treated Brody. Fortunately, this one was successful.”

These new medications–Harvoni and the Holkira Pak–don’t come cheap. Treatment can cost in the range of $80,000, but B.C. has negotiated a deal with drug companies. The price of the drugs has not been disclosed, but now B.C. Pharmacare can cover much of the treatment.

“This is a game-changer,” said Dr. Conway. “This is really allowing us to address the pandemic of the 21st century…I think we need to think of it as the viral infection that will need to be addressed going forward.”

There are an estimated 300,000 Canadians with hepatitis C, with approximately 50,000 in B.C. Thankfully, Williams is no longer one of them.

-With files from John Daly

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