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Dec 07, 2013 10:32 AM EST

Hepatitis C Cure Breakthrough: FDA Approves Promising Drug That Uses No Interferon


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a promising breakthrough drug that can treat chronic hepatitis C virus infection, CNN reported.

The FDA said Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) is the first drug able to treat hepatitis C infection without the use of interferon. It is now the second drug in two weeks the FDA has approved to treat hepatitis C, the first being Olysio, approved Nov. 22.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lead to diminished liver function and failure.

"The potential of these and other treatment advances hinges entirely on our ability to get more people screened and into care," Dr. John Ward, director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at the CDC, said in a statement. "Right now, most Americans with hepatitis C don't access treatment because they have no idea they're infected."

Hepatitis C can lead to ongoing health problems for those infected which can also end in death. The most common means of infection is when someone is exposed to the blood of someone else who is infected. Sharing needles, razors, toothbrushes and other personal items are the easiest ways to give someone else the disease.

"The upshot is that over the next year to the next 18 months there will be a series of medications approved that will vastly simplify the treatment of hepatitis C for nearly everyone and increase the cure rate beyond 90%," David Thomas, a liver specialist at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, told USA Today.

The virus can also be transmitted sexually and, combined with drug use, many experts believe people who contract hepatitis C these ways do so without knowing it. Therefore, they are more susceptible to unknowingly spreading it.

"We want to find the people who have it so we can give them the treatments and help them," Thomas said.

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