A hepatitis C drug, which is the first to specifically target the disease, has been launched in Britain.
Licensed treatments for hepatitis C have previously focused solely on boosting the immune system to fight the infection, but clinical trials have now revealed that adding Victrelis to treatment boosted the number of patients cured of the disease by up to three times.
One of a number of drugs referred to as protease inhibitors, Victrelis is different because it attacks the virus directly.
Chief executive of the the Hepatitis C Trust Charles Gore said: “The infection is known as the “silent epidemic” because it may take decades to produce any symptoms. Ultimately, the virus can cause serious liver damage or liver cancer.
“Current therapy can fail some patients, but the arrival of a new class of drugs will mean more people will be able to clear the virus.”
It is thought that as many as 216,000 people in the UK have chronic hepatitis C but many do not know they are infected.