More Albertans suffering from hepatitis C will receive treatment thanks to public funding for new therapies, says Stephen Shafran, a University of Alberta professor of medicine who specializes in the virus. He spoke Wednesday to Postmedia about a game-changing drug and how Alberta can help eradicate hepatitis C.
Here’s a condensed, edited version the interview.
Q: Alberta Health has made the drug Epclusa available to more patients. The treatment is a pill taken once per day for 12 weeks that has been shown to cure all six strains of hepatitis C in more than 95 per cent of cases. What does that mean for people living with chronic hepatitis C?
A: Now we have the ability to treat people with every type of genotype. Non-genotype 1 patients have had to wait for several years.
The funders have now opened the doors to let us treat people with mild liver disease … if they have one of several types of conditions, such as HIV, fatty liver disease, chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
The percentage of patients I have to tell we can’t treat this year has at least gone down.
Q: What will you tell patients who don’t qualify for the new therapies?
A: The health-care budget … is for everyone and every illness and there are a lot of competing demands.
I’m hoping that the rules change. I really believe we will eventually get an open season on treatment.