Policy Paper

Researching Hepatitis C Medicines: Setbacks and Stepping Stones

Researching Hepatitis C Medicines

PhRMA December 18, 2014

Hepatitis C is a devastating viral disease which progresses slowly over time and causes very serious damage to the liver. The disease is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplant.

Tremendous research advances in recent years are transforming treatment of this debilitating disease. Today, more than 90% of patients with the most common form of the disease can expect to be cured in as little as 8 weeks with newly approved antiviral therapies. This stands in stark contrast to cure rates of 41% over 48 weeks with severe side effects for the same patients just over a decade ago.

These successes emerged from many unsuccessful research attempts over the years. Between 1998 and 2014 alone there were 77 investigational medicines that failed in clinical trials. Setbacks in biopharmaceutical research are inevitable but also necessary as stepping stones to help researchers understand effective pathways for targeting and treating disease. These so-called “failures” paved the way for the 12 new medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over the same period which have ushered in a new era of treatment of hepatitis C.

Today, there are 75 medicines to treat hepatitis C in development in the United States. These medicines promise to improve cure rates further, reduce side effects and duration of treatment, and expand treatment options. The future is truly hopeful for patients with hepatitis C.