New Hepatitis C Drug Gives Thousands Of Oklahomans Hope

Monday, May 30th 2011, 6:19 pm
By: News On 6

Jennifer Loren, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- It's a potentially fatal disease, but researchers say 75 percent of people who have it are undiagnosed.

Hepatitis C is said to affect 35,000 Oklahomans, and for those who have been diagnosed, there is new hope for a cure.

A pair of new drugs will hopefully double the number of people cured of Hep C. Ann Deer was diagnosed with Hepatitis C 15 years ago, but she says it never gets easier.

"It has been real upsetting to me and I have been depressed about it," Deer said.

She's tried standard treatments.

"I gave myself a shot once a week and then I took six pills every day," Deer said.

But she has never reached the ultimate goal... to be cured of Hep C.

"We've got a couple of new exciting drugs that are going to be out," said Doctor Harvey Tatum.

Doctor Tatum is a gastroenterologist at Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa.

He says two new drugs, Victrelis and Incivek, are expected to increase the Hepatitis C cure rate from less than 50 percent to near 90 percent.

"We've doubled our cure rate with this change. This is a major innovation," Tatum said.

One that brings hope to patients like Deer who's never had any major symptoms of the disease, and says she contracted it from her former husband.

"My ex husband was an IV drug user. I have never used IV drugs but he did," Deer said.

People who've had multiple sex partners, used illicit IV drugs or had a blood transfusion prior to 1992 are also at risk. And it's estimated that 75 percent of people who have Hep C don't know they have it.

Doctor Tatum hopes more people like Deer will get tested, and these new drugs will give doctors the opportunity to provide them with a cure.

"I can call and tell them that we've cured you of this potentially fatal disease... and that's pretty awesome. That's real awesome," Tatum said.

The drugs were approved by the FDA just this month. Doctor Tatum says there are even more Hepatitis C treatments on the horizon and his clinic is taking part in clinical research on those.