NICE says yes to another hepatitis C drug

A new drug which effectively treats more genotypes of hepatitis C has been recommended for use in the NHS.

NICE has published new draft guidance which recommends sofosbuvir-velpatasvir – an anti-viral drug that offers patients with chronic hepatitis C a potential cure.

Sofosbuvir-velpatasvir – a tablet taken once daily – works by blocking the virus from multiplying and infecting new cells. Trials of the drug showed cure rates of 89% and above for all genotypes.

People who have genotype 3 are currently treated with either an older injectable type of anti-viral drug, which can cause unwanted side effects, or with a daclastavir-based regimen depending on the patient's stage of liver disease. Sofosbuvir-velpatasvir will be another drug that offers effective treatment to this group of patients – who make up 44% of the patient population with chronic hepatitis C.

The NICE appraisal committee concluded that sofosbuvir-velpatasvir was clinically and cost-effective, and should be routinely available on the NHS.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the NICE centre for health technology evaluation, said: “The decision by the independent NICE appraisal committee to recommend sofosbuvir-velpatasvir is great news. The drug provides considerable health benefits to patients with hepatitis C, in particular, those with genotype 3 who can become very ill, very quickly.

“Sofosbuvir-velpatasvir, a newer type of direct acting anti-viral medicine, can be used to treat all genotypes of hepatitis C. Other drugs currently available treat only certain genotypes or can cause unwanted side effects if they have to be taken in combination with earlier anti-viral treatments.”

“Our positive recommendation of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir means that more tolerable treatment options will become available to all patients with hepatitis C.”

Sofosbuvir-velpatasvir costs £38,980 for a 12 week treatment course. The drug may also be taken in combination with ribavirin costing around £40,000 – also for a 12 week course of treatment. But the NHS will pay less than these prices because a confidential discount has been agreed with the company.

The draft guidance recommends that decisions to treat patients with sofosbuvir-velpatasvir are made by multidisciplinary teams in the operational delivery networks put in place by NHS England, and to prioritise treatment for people with the highest unmet clinical need. 

The preliminary recommendations are now out for public consultation. Consultees, including the company, healthcare professionals and members of the public can comment until 14 October 2016.