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New hepatitis C drug launched

A new treatment for hepatitis C has been launched in the UK, after research suggested that it could boost the number of patients cured of the liver disease by up to three times the current rate.

Where previous drugs intended to fight the virus have worked to boost the immune system's defences against it, Victrellis is the first drug developed to specifically target the disease itself.

"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," said Hepatitis C Trust chief executive Charles Gore. "Ultimately, the virus can cause serious liver damage."

As many as 216,000 people in Britain are thought to carry hepatitis C, which Mr Gore described as a "silent killer" because it can take several years before any symptoms become apparent.

Last month, a report published in the Lancet estimated that up to two billion people around the world - one-third of the global population - could be infected with hepatitis.

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