Portsmouth hospital QA leads the way with trials on hepatitis C

Queen Alexandra Hospital
Queen Alexandra Hospital
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A NEW drug to tackle hepatitis C being tested at Queen Alexandra Hospital has so far been deemed a success.

For the past 18 months, a range of drugs have been used in clinical trials at the Cosham hospital with a success rate of curing the condition of 95 per cent.

In total, 20 patients who have the condition have been on the trial, and a further 40 are due to start in the next few weeks.

Dr Richard Aspinall, consultant hepatologist at QA, said: ‘In years gone by treatment has not been very effective.

‘But now there are new drugs coming out that have hardly any side effects and a 90 to 95-per-cent cure rate – sometimes even 100 per cent.

‘And the treatments are a lot better as patients only need to take one or two tablets a day for about 12 weeks to clear the virus.

‘The difficulty is the drugs are quite expensive and so the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is looking to see how effective it is.’

Dr Aspinall said a series of drugs are being trialled, in which a 12-week course can cost up to £40,000.

But the trials show that after the course, the virus has been cleared from the blood.

In south-east Hampshire, around 2,000 people have hepatitis C – but many do not know they have the condition.

It is usually contracted through blood contact and can remain undetected in the body for around 30 years before causing major liver damage.

Dr Aspinall added: ‘People who have even used intravenous drugs a long time can be at risk from having the virus.

‘Anyone who had a blood transfusion before 1991, when screening for hepatitis C wasn’t performed, should also get checked, as well as people who had tattoos when needles may not have been sterilised.

‘People from sub-Sahara Africa and parts of Asia like Pakistan and Bangladesh can also be at risk.

‘Most common symptoms are feeling tired, but for many years you won’t know you have it and silently it’s damaging your liver, leading to cirrhosis or cancer, and complications such as jaundice, internal bleeding or a build up of fluid in the stomach.’