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New drug targets hepatitis C virus

A new drug that directly targets the most common form of hepatitis C has been launched in the UK.

Victrelis can target the virus in the most widespread form of the illness, genotype 1.

Clinical trials showed that therapies involving Victrelis raised the number of chronic patients clear of the virus threefold.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infection that hits the liver. It can cause cirrhosis and, in some rare cases, cancer.

The virus is commonly spread by injecting drug users sharing needles, body piercing and tattoos. Around 216,000 Britons are believed to be chronically infected with hepatitis C but many do not know it.

"The infection is known as the silent epidemic because it may take decades to produce any symptoms. Ultimately, the virus can cause serious liver damage or liver cancer," said Charles Gore, Chief Executive of the the Hepatitis C Trust charity.

He added: "Current therapy can fail some patients, but the arrival of a new class of drugs will mean more people will be able to clear the virus."

Copyright © Press Association 2011

Hepatitis C Trust