New therapies mean much longer and healthier lives for patients with hepatitis C, a virus that affects 3.2 million Americans
Roger Warmuth loves spending time with his dogs - Sella and Teak.
"They help me get through the tough times," he says. And he's had some tough times to get through. Seventeen years ago - doctors diagnosed Roger with hepatitis C - a virus that attacks the liver. It's given cirrhosis. along with muscle and bone aches.
Roger tried interferon therapy, an intense treatment that causes severe side effects and works in fewer than half of patients. Now he has much better options.
"This is a great time to have hepatitis, if you have to have it, because now I can tell you I can offer you cure and that is a big word, it's hope for the future," Dr. Ralph McKibbin says.
At Blair Gastroneterology Associates in Altoona, Dr. McKibbin and his associates treat upwards of 50 hepatitis patients at a time. Now they offer a class of drugs known which targets the virus, not the immune system. They're pills or capsules taken for three or six months.
Dr. McKibbin says,"we can now use the word cure. The virus is gone. It doesn't exist in your body and we can kick it out 80, 85, 90, 95 percent, depending on the strain of the virus."
He thinks newer medications in the next year or so may boost the cure rate even higher.
Roger will start his new drug in the next month. He hope it will wipe out his infection for good - so he can focus on enjoying all the "warm" moments with his pups.
The most recently approved drug in this class - Sofosbuvir was approved in December. Dr. McKibbin says under the Affordable Care Act, effective hepatitis treatments, like the new drugs will be covered.
The CDC recommends that all baby boomers---those born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for heaptitis C. Three-fourths of the cases are in that age group