U.S. pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers plans to bring a new treatment for hepatitis C to Japan by the next year. The new treatment does not require drug injections, instead it uses pills.
The company has applied to sell a two-pill combination treatment in Japan after it conducted medical tests on patients, with the virus being killed in 85 percent of patients after six months of treatment.
“This is a path-breaking case because Japan is the first in the world” to get the new drug, said Kazuaki Chayama, head of Hiroshima University Hospital.
The company said 6 percent of patients on the treatment suffered serious side effects. Less serious side effects included headaches (16 percent of patients) and diarrhea (10 percent). The side effects are gentler compared to the ones of interferon,
which can cause fever or vomiting, according to the doctors who led the clinical trials.
Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood tainted transfusions or intravenous drug use and it can lead to liver cancer.
Thousands of people in Japan developed hepatitis when they received infusions of insufficiently sterilized blood products, according to the international press.
Japanese government as improved the law in 2008, offering compensation to victims who had sued the government and pharmaceutical companies. The government has also reduced the costs for hepatitis C treatment, so most patients would not pay more than Y10,000 ($100) per month for drugs.