SAN ANTONIO -

After devoting 15 years of his career on Hepatitis C research, Dr. Eric Lawitz of the Texas Liver Institute reports a breakthrough drug with a 90 percent cure rate and no side effects.
"This is becoming a very, very curable disease with very limited therapy," Lawitz said.
Lawitz, also a clinical professor in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, said Sofosbuvir, a new anti-viral drug, could be available by the first of year, pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
A UTHSC spokeswoman also said in both studies conducted by Lawitz, sofosbuvir appeared to be effective for all six Hepatitis C subtypes.
Lawitz's findings were published in the latest New England Medical Journal.
Until now, the only treatment option for Hepatitis C was interferon, which works on the immune system, but only has a 50 percent cure rate.
Lawitz said its side effects also made the treatment a 52-week ordeal for patients.
"The new generation of drugs works on the virus specifically," Lawitz said.
Lawitz said the breakthrough is "amazing for the field and particularly hepatitis patients."
Elton Johns, diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2000, was among the first patients who were declared cured after only 12 weeks of clinical trials.
"Another 12 weeks after that, there was still no sign of the virus," Johns said. "I have a new lease on life."
Johns said the timing of the drug couldn't be better. The former business executive is now actively looking for a new job.
Worried that talking about his case would hurt his chances, Johns said he decided to speak on behalf of over 3-million Americans living with the disease.
Johns said he urges people born from 1945-1965 to follow the advice from the Centers for Disease Control.
"Get tested," Johns said, like he did.
The CDC said baby boomers are five times greater at risk for the disease that can go undetected for years.

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