Gilead Sciences: Harvoni Creates Options for Treating Hepatitis C

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In general, hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. There are actually five different types of hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E but types B and C are the most common. As its name suggests, hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus, a blood-borne virus that is transmitted via exposure to even small amounts of infected blood. About 71 million people globally are known to be infected with hepatitis C and approximately 400,000 people die every year because of it.

Some of the most common symptoms of hepatitis C are jaundice (skin and eyes turn yellow), nausea, vomiting, fatigue, abdominal pain, dark-colored urine, and overall discomfort. While there is currently no vaccine developed against hepatitis C, several antiviral medicines that cure* hepatitis C infection are already out in the market. In particular, the drug Harvoni by Gilead Sciences is one the leading drugs used against hepatitis C. Learn more about it below.

*Cure means that the hepatitis C virus is no longer detected in the blood few months after the treatment.

Uses of Harvoni

            As alluded to above, Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir), is a prescription drug used to treat patients infected with hepatitis C virus, with or without cirrhosis. Harvoni’s active components, ledipasvir and sofosbuvir are known to be direct-acting antiviral substances.

  • On one hand, ledipasvir is an NS5A inhibitor that is capable of inhibiting the hyperphosphorylation of NS5A that is needed for the production of the hepatitis C virus. On the other hand, sofosbuvir is a liver-targeted inhibitor of the virus’s polymerase. By acting as its chain terminator, it can successfully control its replication, and eventually stopping it. Once administered, these active components are easily absorbed by the body.
  • Several clinical studies have already shown that Harvoni has 96-99% success rates in Hepatitis C patients with no prior treatments. Interestingly, some patients who used Harvoni were treated in just 8 weeks of treatment.
  • For patients who have had their liver transplanted, Harvoni should be used together with ribavirin.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Harvoni for hepatitis C treatment in October 2014.

Side effects of Harvoni

The most common side effects associated with Harvoni are headache, fatigue, and overall body weakness. Aside from that, great precaution should be taken before undergoing Harvoni treatment because it may lead to some severe side effects. Alarmingly, Harvoni could lead to the reactivation of Hepatitis B, causing liver problems and eventually death.

Competitors of Harvoni

Since its approval, Harvoni has dominated the hepatitis C drug market. However, it also has a number of rival products; for instance, Merck’s Zepatier is Harvoni’s number one competitor. While these two are known to work almost equally in terms of treating patients, reports show that the latter is more effective in patients who hadn’t been previously treated.

  • Aside from Zepatier, other drugs like Sovaldi and Advera also rival Harvoni in the market. However, these drugs face some major health concerns with the former having the most serious side effects and the latter having adverse reactions like the development of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, and liver failure.
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