2 new drugs to fight Hepatitis C

August 30, 2011

When Kelly Ann Hester learned she had Hepatitis C in 1993, the disease didn't even have a formal name and doctors didn't give the young mother much of a future.

"I was told that I probably would not live to see my son graduate from high school," Kelly Ann said.

Like many in the 1970s and 80s, Kelly Ann probably got the Hepatitis C virus from a blood transfusion.

But it can also be spread by I-V drug use, contaminated dialysis machines, or contaminated tattoo needles.

Once in the body, the virus attacks the liver, leaving scarring, or cirrhosis.

"Once they get into cirrhosis, there's a risk of liver cancer, liver failure," Dr. Rajender Reddy of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

But Kelly Ann made up her mind to do everything possible to stay alive.

"There've been about 7 treatments that have come down through the years, and I have done every one of them," Kelly Ann said.

But now two new drugs, Victrelis, and Incivek, could change the playing field.

"They interfere with the replication of the virus, so eventually, the virus goes extinct," Dr. Rajender said.

Victrelis and Incivek still have to be taken with older drugs so there still are side effects, such as anemia or a skin rash.

But the treatment time can be cut in half.

"We'll know in as little as 4 weeks whether this treatment is working or not," Dr. Rajender said.

Kelly Ann, who was in the trials for Incivek, is now clear of the hep C virus, and off medication entirely.

And about her son -

"Andrew is 23-years old, he is married, Airman Second Class in the Air Force and he has a little girl," Kelly Ann said.

Kelly is now putting her energy into helping to get more people tested for Hepatitis C.

Health experts believe about 4-million Americans have the disease, but three-quarters of them don't know it.

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