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Hepatitis C market forecast for 230% growth in next nine years

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According to research from Datamonitor Healthcare, a leading independent healthcare analyst, the hepatitis C market is likely to grow by a striking 230% and to peak at $15.5bn in 2022. No wonder, then, that some of the biggest players in the pharmaceuticals market are rushing to be the first to develop effective, ground-breaking new therapies that eliminate the problems caused by current treatments.

Major Markets

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease, primarily affecting the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Many of those infected develop chronic hepatitis C, which is characterised by the presence of detectable viral replication for six months or more. Although symptoms may not appear for decades, over time such a chronic infection may progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Worldwide, more than 350,000 people die every year from diseases related to hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is believed to affect around 3% of the world’s population, with an annual infection rate of around 3-4 million. There are currently 7 million people living with the virus in the United States, Japan and the five major EU markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. Between now and 2022, the number of people living with hepatitis C is expected to rise in all of these markets except for Japan, where a marginal decline is forecast.

Room for Innovation

The traditional treatments for hepatitis C have been interferon-based and have suffered from poor tolerability profiles and a need for lengthy periods of treatment. Cure rates vary according to the virus type and treatment form and adverse effects are common. Given the expected rise in the number of infections, there is a clear and growing demand for new and improved interferon-free therapies. As a result, the market is likely to soar.

In the Final Furlong

Growth is likely to be accelerated by the big players in the market, namely pharma companies such as AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Such companies will compete fiercely to be the first to develop improved and innovative regimes without interferon. Indeed, some already have relevant drugs fast approaching the approval stage. Johnson & Johnson’s simeprevir is rumoured to be in line for use as part of an (interferon-free) ‘cocktail’ approach to treatment, in combination with other, as yet unspecified, medications. Simeprevir is expected to receive FDA approval shortly. Gilead and AbbVie are also hard at work on interferon-free therapies.

Bright Future

In fact, interferon-free treatment regimes are already showing good results. A paper published in the 28 August 2013 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported on a clinical trial in which a novel regime, without interferon, was used to combat ‘hard-to-treat’ hepatitis C in patients with particularly challenging health profiles. The results were good, with a viral clearance rate of between 48% and 68%, depending on dose. So it would seem that the future is looking bright, not only for those with hepatitis C, but also for those with an interest in the associated markets.

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