Pill-form Hepatitis C treatment giving patients hope

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APEX, N.C. (WNCN) – A new Hepatitis C treatment with a high success rate is giving many who suffer from the virus hope.

Duke University Medical Center’s Dr. Andrew Muir said the new treatment is a “big change” to how the virus has previously been treated.

“In the last couple of years, we now have these medicines that are all pills, they’re very well tolerated and the treatment rates are really high,” Muir said.

He said it cures 90 percent of patients with Hepatitis C.

Three to five million Americans have it and most don’t even know it. Of those with the virus, 75 percent are baby boomers.

Suzanne Nelson suffered during treatment of the liver damaging virus doctors diagnosed her with in 2011.

“It [the treatment] literally put me in bed,” Nelson said.

She took injections with help from her husband, Mark, for about a year.

“It was dire and I’m here, her husband, I love her dearly. I’m giving her injections not knowing which one might kill her,” he said.

But in 2013, she had new treatment pills in her hand just a week after the FDA approved the medication.

The treatment consists of two pills a day over a 12 week period.

That treatment is ultimately what cured Nelson of Hepatitis C, according to Muir.

How Nelson was cured has helped give her husband hope as he contracted the virus.

“I’d be scared to death right now if I had not already been through and seen the process,” he said.

With such a successful treatment being used, Muir is now working to overcome the stigma that the virus is only contracted through intravenous drug use.

Nelson said it is possible she acquired it working in the medical field.

“We know there were poor healthcare practices for many years and so some people got it potentially through healthcare, through vaccination programs and things like that,” Muir said.

Muir suggests Baby Boomers in particular talk with their doctors about being tested.

He said the treatment remains expensive but there is help available with the cost.

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