In a few days, doctors in Louisiana will start prescribing a new medicine being called a breakthrough for people with hepatitis C.
That's good news for 60,000 people in the state living with the liver-destroying virus.
And a Denham Springs man was in the clinical trial and was one of the first to possibly be cured.
Mark Newman is one of the nearly 4 million people in the U.S. who contracted hepatitis C.
In the 80s, many baby boomers got it through blood transfusions before the medical community knew about the virus. While the blood supply is clear now, you can also get it by sharing contaminated drug or tattoo needles and in rare cases, sharing contaminated manicure and pedicure tools and toothbrushes. It is very rare for the virus to be transmitted through sex.
Hepatitis C slowly scars and destroys the liver, causing cirrhosis, cancer and without a liver transplant, it can be fatal. Eleven years ago, Mark went through the immune-boosting combination treatment of injections and pills, a treatment that can take up to a year.
"The side effects were terrible, brutal. I mean everything from sweating, to bad fever feeling, dermatitis problems, emotional, mental, it was crazy," said Newman, 55, who was diagnosed about a year ago.
Mark is one of the first to try a new type of drug that has just been FDA-approved. Sovaldi directly stops the virus from reproducing. It dies until none is left.
"In the clinical trials, it was amazing. Certain groups of people with hep C could be treated with no interferon for as little as 12 weeks, cure their virus completely to never have it return in their blood stream again, with no side effects, no hospitalizations, no blood transfusions," explained Dr. Nathan Shores, the Medical Director of Liver Transplantation at Tulane. He is also a gastroenterologist and transplant hepatologist. "I do think this is a real turning point for not just for hepatitis C, but for medicine, the ability to cure a virus in over 90 percent of people with minimal side effects."
Doctors believe within a year, even more promising hepatitis treatments will be approved.
"The downstream effects that will be seen 20 years after this with less liver cancer, less transplants, will be amazing and it will send a ripple through medical care in saving us money and saving lives for several decades afterward," said Dr. Shores.
Mark is thankful he was in the clinical trial.
"Breezed through it. I mean, a common cold was worse than the treatment that I went through. Here I am a year later post treatment and clinically cured right now," said Newman.
The cost of the new pill is $1,000 or $84,000 for the 12-week recommended treatment. But local doctors believe insurance companies will pay after prior authorization. Not all hepatitis C infections are genetically the same. So treatment will be different depending on what type a person has.
for more call Tulane at 504-988-5344.