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Breakthrough Hepatitis C treatment
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
A new medication is giving Southeast Texans suffering from Hepatitis C hope they didn't have before. More than 3 million Americans suffer from chronic Hepatitis C, a virus that destroys the liver. Many in the medical community are calling the new medication a breakthrough.
Clay Hutchison is the prevention coordinator for the Triangle Area Network. A non- profit that offers free Hepatitis C testing in Beaumont.
"There is a large number of people that are infected with Hepatitis C across the country and they don't know it," said Hutchison.
Hepatitis C is transferred by blood to blood contact with an infected person.
"Through the sharing of needles, through tattooing or intraveinous drug use," said Hutchison. "Sometimes it can be spread through sex."
Until recently, treatment has been invasive, with many side effects and only a 9 percent cure rate.
"A lot of people, I think, for a long time have not felt like there was anything, any hope for them," said Hutchison.
Now, Hutchison says there's hope.
"It is no longer just treatable, it is curable," said Hutchison.
Sovaldi, a new Hepatitis C medication, has a more than 90 percent cure rate.
"Only 9 percent chance of [of a cure] to 90, that is a huge improvement," said Hutchison. "That is a huge. Leaps and bounds and that's why we want to get the word out because now there is treatment."
Hutchison says some Southeast Texans are already on the new medication.
"They're just happy. They're happy that this is happening. They're happy that they're getting the care to get this out of their system, to get this out of their life," said Hutchison.
There's hope, but also a cost. Treatments will run into tens of thousands of dollars, and patients, insurance companies and the government are trying to work out who will pay for it. Sovaldi has cured more than 90 percent of patients with a 12 week treatment, and a 12-week treatment costs 84,000 dollars.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends all Baby Boomers get tested for Hepatitis C, because they are the generation most likely to have been exposed. For more information on Hepatitis C, follow this link to the Centers for Disease Control.