Talking about the hep C revolution

With 1800 HIV patients on his practice books, and about the same number of hepatitis C cases to contend with, Darlinghurst GP, Dr David Baker has his work cut out for him, but there light is at the end of the tunnel. He talks to 6minutes about the latest advances in hepatitis C treatment.

You’ve been involved in some interesting clinical trials recently?

Yes, for HIV drugs and also hep C. The hep C stuff has been particularly interesting. We’re seeing some very good results with a new oral interferon-free regimen. We've been part of phase three trials of the antiviral sofosbuvir which has a very good safety profile and is highly effective - not 100% but close to it.

What about the side effects?

Compared to conventional treatments the side effects of sofosbuvir are minimal.  Interferon and ribavrin on the other hand, are hard work for patients and quite demanding for physicians in that most patients will need to be hospitalised. Basically the patients need a lot of help to get through the treatment which comes with severe side effects including flu-like symptoms, depression, psychotic-like illnesses and almost always, anaemia.

So, you think sofosbuvir is the way to go?

It’s a very straightforward treatment. Patients just take tablets for three to six months and that will be it. It’s dramatically safer, easier and more effective than interferon and ribavrin. We’re about to enter a new hep C revolution!

What about the two new oral antiviral agents, boceprivir and telaprevir that are listed on the PBS to treat hepatitis C?

Well, they have high success rates but also nasty side effects because the drugs are a totally unfriendly combination.