Nine liver disease patients in Bradford have trialled a new wonder drug for free in a pharmacy-sponsored research project that could otherwise have cost hospital bosses £315,000.
Hepatitis C specialists at Bradford Royal Infirmary will know in June if the drug, yet to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has been successful for this batch of trial patients.
It costs £416 per pill, meaning a 12-week course where one pill is taken per day adds up to £35,000 per patient. Before taking Sofosbuvir, the livers of the trial patients, who were all South Asian and aged 30 to 55, were so damaged, working at less than 40 per cent of capacity, that they were at serious risk of developing cancer or growing so weak the only eventual option to keep them alive would be a transplant.
But by taking the Sofosbuvir tablets, their chances of being rescued and getting a better quality of life are now looking good, according to Dr Sulleman Moreea, who says the medication has a 90 per cent success rate in terms of halting the damage and giving a liver time to regenerate.
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was asked to carry out the pharmacy-sponsored research trial through Dr Moreea because of his track record of past work on Hepatitis C and the number of South Asian patients he sees with the blood-borne disease.
“We want the people of Bradford to know their hospital is at the forefront of knowledge using cutting-edge treatment to cure Hepatitis C. We are proud to be part of this trial which has also saved the Foundation Trust £315,000 - this saving ensures that vital NHS resources can be spent on patients elsewhere in our hospitals,” he said. “There are six known types of Hepatitis C - and Type 3 is typically prevalent in the South Asian community.”
There are 1,000 Hepatitis C patients in the city, 550 have the Type 3 and the rest have Type 1 which is usually found in people who have been given blood product or are injecting drugs.
Dr Moreea estimates there could still be another 2,000 people with the disease who have not been diagnosed yet. Often it is only discovered when it is too late. He said every year he saw three or four people under the age of 60 die from it in Bradford.
The best current cure rate using a different drug, involving one injection a week and six tablets daily, is 60 to 65 per cent.
NHS England has just agreed to the use of Sofosbuvir for 500 sick Hepatitis C patients in England across 15 centres nationally early before NICE assesses it this year.
“Sofosbuvir could change lives for ever,” said Dr Moreea. “The trial has saved the Trust a lot of money but forget the money – this is about patients'’ wellbeing. We are not staying still on this, we hope Bradford patients will also be among the 500 to get the Sofosbuvir early.”