Drugs 'could eradicate Hepatitis C'

Doctors from around Europe say governments and drug companies should work to ensure all patients can access the latest treatments for Hepatitis C.

Experts believe they have developed treatments that could mean the eradication of Hepatitis C "within our lifetimes".

But they say their vision will only become reality if there's a worldwide effort to make the new remedies available to all.

The global call comes as top clinicians from around Europe gather ahead of the first Five Nations Conference on HIV and Hepatitis, which takes place on Monday and Tuesday in London.

Doctors from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK are taking part in the appeal to governments, drug companies and doctors to ensure all patients can access the latest generation of effective antiviral treatments for Hepatitis C (HCV).

The blood-borne virus, which affects an estimated 170 million people worldwide, infects the cells of the liver, causing cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.

Most cases occur in people who share needles or injecting equipment contaminated with traces of blood to inject 'street drugs'.

Dr Ranjababu Kulasegaram, who chairs the British HIV Association's Hepatitis Society Subcommittee, said revolutionary new treatments would have little effect if they were only available to the few who can currently afford them.

"Despite their effectiveness, these treatments will have little value for the majority of people with HCV, unless their costs are drastically reduced and they are made universally accessible."

Conference chair Dr Mark Nelson says preventing transmission of the infection is possible.

"We strongly urge governments, the pharmaceutical industry, clinicians, community organisations and non-governmental organisations to work together to make global elimination of HCV a realistic target within our lifetimes."

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