Patients must be given life-saving hepatitis C drugs now, say charities

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt must intervene to overturn attempts by NHS England to stop people living with hepatitis C receiving life-saving treatments, 14 leading charities and top liver doctors have written to him to say.

The letter voices growing concern about NHS England’s series of seemingly unprecedented requests for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to delay patients’ access to a new generation of hepatitis C drugs on grounds of affordability, despite NICE having ruled favourably on their cost-effectiveness.

The new drugs have significantly higher cure rates, minimal side-effects and much shorter treatment durations.

NICE approved the use of one of the new generation drugs, Sofosbuvir, in January, but this and now other new drugs are still having their introduction for routine use in the NHS delayed by NHS England. In addition, NHS England is still to implement the interim policy providing treatment for those patients in most urgent need that was originally due to come into effect in April. Each month of delay is estimated to lead to 40 people with hepatitis C developing preventable cancer and 30 progressing to severe cirrhosis. (1)

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