Faster, Cheaper Hep C Cures on the Horizon?

Raymond Schinazi, PhD, director of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology and a faculty member in the MMG program at Emory University has had a hand in developing five lifesaving antiviral drugs, including sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), one of several new treatments that can wipe out hepatitis C infections in nearly everybody who takes them.

Now Schinazi says he’s figured out a way to shrink the treatment time for some hep C patients from 12 to 3 weeks. Most importantly, the shorter regimen, which relies on a combination of three drugs instead of two, could cut the cost of a cure by 60%.

Right now, the two-drug combo Harvoni -- a combination of sofosbuvir and another antiviral drug called ledipasvir, which was approved by the FDA last year -- costs $1,125 per pill. People take it for about 12 weeks, bringing the total tab for treatment to $94,500. That puts hope of a cure out of reach for many.

Schinazi didn’t say which drugs were in the experimental treatment, but he says they each work in a slightly different way to keep the virus from being able to copy itself.

“These are three of the most potent drugs available. You put them all together and you blow the virus away, basically. It has no way to escape,” he says.

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