NICE Approval of Hepatitis C Drug Provides Hope to Needlestick Victims

October 06, 2016

The chances of contracting the hepatitis C virus following a sharps injury may be slim, but it can be life-changing for those who do unfortunately catch the blood-borne virus.

In particular, the genotype 3 form of the virus is especially difficult to treat, with current treatments involving unwelcome side effects or having no impact whatsoever depending on the condition of the patient's liver.

However, there is new hope for needlestick victims in the UK, as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has given its approval to a new drug that will now be available on the NHS for genotype 3 hepatitis C sufferers who have contracted the virus as a result of their lifestyle or as a consequence of a sharps injury.

New draft guidance from NICE recommends the anti-viral drug sofosbuvir-velpatasvir as a potential cure for the chronic disease. The drug works by stopping the hepatitis C virus from being able to multiply and subsequently infect new blood cells. Just one dose taken in tablet form each day is enough to stop the disease from making its home in a patient's body.

Trials involving sofosbuvir-velpatasvir have had an 89 per cent success rate in eliminating the virus from patients' systems, with no adverse side effects apparent, indicating that this could be a viable cure.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, commented: "The decision by the independent NICE appraisal committee to recommend sofosbuvir-velpatasvir is great news. The drug provides considerable health benefits to patients with hepatitis C - in particular, those with genotype 3 who can become very ill, very quickly.

"Our positive recommendation of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir means that more tolerable treatment options will become available to all patients with hepatitis C."

As a result of this recommendation, hope of a potential genotype 3 hepatitis C cure is not only provided to drug users, alcoholics and others who have contracted the virus from lifestyle-related factors, but also to sharps injury sufferers.

For medical professionals or others who suffer such an injury, it can be a worrying time waiting for their blood tests to come back to find out whether or not they have a blood-borne virus. However, following NICE's approval of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir, taking a brief course of the drug could potentially prevent hepatitis C from being able to manifest in a patient's bloodstream.