WHO Updates HCV Treatment Guidelines

The updated guidelines are intended to promote the scale-up of HCV treatment, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where few people currently have access to hepatitis treatment.

Citing rapid progress in the development of new treatments for hepatitis C infection, the World Health Organization issued updated treatment guidelines for the disease on April 13. The guidelines promote the transition to newer and more effective medicines that have the potential to cure most persons who are living with hepatitis C (HCV) infection.

Is was only in 2014 that WHO issued its first recommendations on the treatment of HCV, but several new medicines have been introduced and marketed since then. Called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs), they are more effective and easier to use than established treatment regimens and have been included in WHO's Model List of Essential Medicines, with treatment being only 8–12 weeks long. DAAs are easy to take (as few as 1 pill per day), have few side effects, and result in a cure for more than 90 percent of people treated -- "a vast improvement from older treatments, which cured less than half of the people treated, required weekly interferon injections for up to 12 months, and often resulted in severe, sometimes fatal, side effects," WHO reported.

The new guidelines provide guidance on which specific regimens should be used based on a patient's clinical history as well as the genotype of HCV. The updated guidelines are intended to promote the scale-up of HCV treatment, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where few people currently have access to hepatitis treatment.

WHO reports approximately 130-150 million people are estimated to be infected with HCV and an estimated 700,000 people die from HCV-related complications annually.

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