Experimental Therapy Shows Promise in Hepatitis C Patients Who Use Intravenous Drugs

A new study suggests an experimental drug can cure hepatitis C in patients who use intravenous drugs, according to Bloomberg Business.

The drug, made by Merck & Co., cured 95 percent of patients, the company noted in a statement. The study included 301 people who used intravenous drugs and had hepatitis C. Most patients in the study were still using illegal drugs, with 59 percent using non-prescribed drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines.

The researchers found 97 percent of patients took at least 95 percent of their hepatitis C drugs. All of the patients were also taking daily medicine to treat opioid addiction, such as buprenorphine or methadone, the article notes.

The results of the study on the experimental compound, called elbasvir/grazoprevir, were presented at The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases Annual Meeting.

Merck noted that injection drug use is the most common risk factor for chronic hepatitis C infection in the United States. Rates of transmission and reinfection are higher among injection drug users than in other people with hepatitis C. In the United States, 67 percent to 84 percent of people who use intravenous drugs and are being treated with addiction medicine have been infected with hepatitis C, the company stated.

A study published this summer that examined 42 state Medicaid programs found about half required a period of drug abstinence before covering hepatitis C treatment. Current treatments can be very costly, exceeding $1,000 a day.

In early November, the federal government warned states they may be breaking the law if they do not provide Medicaid patients with the drugs they need to treat hepatitis C.

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