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New FDA-approved drug could cure people with Hepatitis C

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GREENVILLE, N.C. - Doctors and patients call it a "miracle drug” – a new pill just approved by the FDA that's transforming the medical field by curing those infected with Hepatitis C.

The liver-destroying disease affects nearly 4 million people in our country and 150 million world-wide.

Greenville native Ray Brooks is one of those people. He contracted the disease from a blood transfusion when he was just a baby before there were specific blood tests for infectious diseases.

Now 41 years old, he's tried countless medications and has already had two liver transplants. 

"If I didn't get rid of the virus, ultimately, I was going to die,” he says. “I didn't have any other choice. And I want to see my kids graduate high school. I want to see my daughter get married."

With few options left, Brooks jumped at the chance to be part of a trial group at Duke University Medical Center to test a new oral medication for Hepatitis C called Sovaldi.

After just 12 weeks on the drug, Brooks saw the virus disappear from his body.

"It was exciting,” he recalls. “They say if it hasn't come back by July, then it's not coming back."

Infectious disease Dr. Dawd Siraj of ECU Family Medicine says Sovaldi has minimal side effects while stopping the replication of the virus. Plus, it’s effective in curing more than 90 percent of patients with Hepatitis C.

"It's quite an amazing medication,” Dr. Siraj says. “It is going to completely change the field. If we are curing those people at this rate, eventually there will be a time when we completely eradicate it or significantly drop the complications and cost of this disease."

But it comes at a price. Sovaldi can cost as much as $1,000 per daily pill, or $84,000 for a typical 12-week treatment.

"If you are going to pay out of pocket, I don't know anybody who could afford this," Dr. Siraj says.

But he's hopeful insurance companies will soon agree to pay for it, or competition from other drug companies will eventually lower its cost.

Still for people like Brooks, a cure is priceless.

“I just hope that this ends my big fight,” he says.

Hepatitis C is spread mainly by sharing contaminated needles and is the number one cause for liver transplants in the U.S.  But Dr. Siraj says most people who are infected don't even know it. His advice: get tested.


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