Their study, published in Monday's New England Journal of Medicine, showed that receiving a once-daily combination of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir for a 12-week period was effective in both previously treated and never-treated patients with hepatitis C genotypes 1, 2, 4, 5 or 6.
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Current approved treatments for chronic HCV are not equally effective in combating the virus' different forms. Testing to determine the particular genetic makeup — or genotype — of the virus has been required before treatment could be started.
The drug combination was investigated in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial at 81 sites in eight different countries. After 12 weeks, 99 per cent of the 624 patients given sofosbuvir-velpatasvir were virus-free three months after completing treatment. None of the 116 patients receiving a placebo had the same result.
Chronic HCV is known as a silent killer because symptoms often don't appear until the liver is severely damaged. Left undiagnosed, the infection can lead to cirrhosis, which can progress to liver failure or liver cancer.
"Knowing which treatment to use for which patient required expertise, which made it much more difficult for non-specialists to treat hepatitis C," Feld said by email. "There are simply not enough specialists to treat all of the 250,000 to 400,000 infected Canadians."
"We are now on a path where elimination of hepatitis C from Canada actually starts to become a realistic goal."