Even more promising, these first two new drugs are just the beginning of a revolution in the treatment and cure of Hepatitis C. A number of additional direct acting antivirals are being tested now. These drugs appear to be more powerful than the first two...and easier to use and tolerate.
Hepatitis C has been in the news for other reasons in 2011. In November 2011, the CDC announced that Hepatitis C has surpassed HIV/AIDS as a cause of death in the U.S. Through a careful review of cause of death records from 1999 to 2007, the CDC found that HIV/AIDS had declined as a cause of death while Hepatitis C had increased...significantly. This finding is tragic, but hopefully it will bring more public attention and funding to the long neglected epidemic of Hepatitis C.
In 2011, the CDC, and other organizations, acknowledged the fact that Hepatitis C is an epidemic among Baby Boomers. Members of this generation make up more than two thirds of current cases...but only about one fourth know they are infected. The long term effects of Hepatitis C are beginning to emerge as growing numbers of untested and untreated Boomers develop liver failure and liver cancer. Primary liver cancer is one of the only cancers on the rise in the U.S....and Hepatitis is the cause of this increase.
Research in 2011 also revealed that the use of injected street drugs is on the rise among people in their twenties and early thirties. Without increased testing and treatment, these young people will fuel a new wave of the Hepatitis C epidemic.
During 2011, we saw advances in the treatment and cure of Hepatitis C, as well as sobering news about the extent and effects of the epidemic. Hepatitis C is truly a curable disease, but many more people must be tested and treated in order to be cured. Action is needed now to avert a larger healthcare crisis and even greater human tragedy.
Please make Hepatitis C advocacy a personal resolution for 2012. Find an advocacy group to join. Speak out among your family and friends. Contact your city, state and national elected officials to educate them about the hidden epidemic of Hepatitis C...and the need for widespread testing the treatment programs. Take a look at the Resources section of our website for discussion ideas.
We wish you a warm and happy holiday and a healthy, happy and active 2012.
Dara and Ronni