National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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More options to be made available to treat hepatitis C

Another ‘potential curative’ drug for people with chronic hepatitis C will be made available on the NHS.

New draft guidance published today from NICE recommends elbasvir-grazoprevir - one of the newer hepatitis C antiviral drugs that can offer patients more effective treatment.

In clinical trials, elbasvir-grazoprevir showed cure rates above 90% for people with genotypes 1 and 4. The cure rate is dependent on the genotype, treatment history and presence of liver damage.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, said: “Treating chronic hepatitis C had previously been a major challenge with patients having to experience long and unpleasant courses of treatment. 

“Elbasvir-grazoprevir, like other newer direct acting anti-viral treatments, is a drug that provides considerable health benefits to patients without some of the adverse side effects associated with earlier anti-viral treatments, such as peginterferon alpha with ribavirin.” 

A 12-week course of treatment with elbasvir-grazoprevir usually costs £36,500 per patient, but the NHS will pay less than this as the company has offered a confidential discount. 

Taken once daily, the tablet could treat around 4,000 patients in the first year, alongside other options already available for hepatitis C. 

Prof Longson continued: “Our positive recommendation for elbasvir-grazoprevir means that more treatment options will become available to patients with hepatitis C. And as these types of anti-viral drugs are more effective, the spread of the virus can be reduced.” 

Hepatitis C is a virus spread through blood which causes infection of the liver, and often leads to liver disease. The virus is spread through the blood, often from contaminated syringes and needles but also through the sharing of razors or toothbrushes, unprotected sex and from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy. 

The draft guidance recommends that decisions to treat patients with elbasvir-grazoprevir are made by the multidisciplinary teams in the operational delivery networks put in place by NHS England, and to prioritise treatment for people with the highest unmet clinical need. 

Final guidance is expected to publish in October, when the NHS will have a three month period to make the drug available to patients.

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