SCOTTISH patients will become the first in Europe to be treated with a new drug shown to be highly effective against chronic hepatitis C.
Hundreds of people suffering from the most severe types of the disease are set to benefit after the pills were approved for NHS use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
A course of daclatasvir – marketed as Daklinza – is believed to cost nearly £30,000 per patient. It is seen as value for money because of the healthcare costs saved by the 98 per cent cure rate claimed by its makers.
Leon Wylie, lead officer of Hepatitis Scotland, an umbrella body for groups working to fight the disease, said: “It is a positive decision from the SMC which will allow some very ill patients with chronic hepatitis C to access a new, all-oral treatment. This can potentially help clear the virus without the use of interferon, a drug with significant side-effects this group of patients is often not able to use.”
But Wylie warned even though the Scottish Government spends more than most countries per capita to fight the disease, the cost may have an impact on treatment decisions. He also pointed out that the disease often hits the poorest members of society.
Dr Stephen Barclay, a liver consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, said: “This decision is an important milestone for around 40,000 patients in Scotland with chronic hepatitis C, who live with the risk of cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
“The acceptance of daclatasvir offers a new option that can provide high rates of viral cure and real benefits for patients.”
An SMC spokeswoman said: “The decision makes Scottish patients the first in Europe to routinely access this medicine through the health service.”
The Scottish Government said the drug would be prescribed to any patient whose doctor felt would benefit from it. A spokeswoman said: “In the majority of cases, hepatitis C can be treated and cured. That is why it is such welcome news that this medicine has been approved for use within Scotland’s NHS.”
A spokesman for manufacturers Bristol-Myers Squibb said: “The drug cost a huge amount to develop and it represents value for money.”
Daclatasvir is being assessed for NHS use in England.