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  • Saanvi Jain

Sofosbuvir (cure for Hepatitis C)

Did you know that in 2016, at least 2.4 million people were reported to be living with Hepatitis C in the United States alone? At least 170 million people around the world are affected by it. In fact, these numbers may even be off since Hepatitis C is often under-reported. Hepatitis C is a lung infection that can become a long-term illness causing many health problems such as liver damage, liver failure, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. People most commonly get Hepatitis C when they come in contact with blood from someone who has been infected. Some forms of transmission are sharing needles, sexual intercourse with an affected individual, getting tattoos and piercings from unregulated places, and through blood transfusions and organ transplants. There are two main types of Hepatitis C coming in the forms of chronic and acute illness. Usually, people start off with acute Hepatitis C, which occurs within 6 months of initial exposure to the hepatitis C virus. Then, the short-term acute illness can often turn into a chronic illness if left untreated, which can even lead to death. The major symptoms of Hepatitis C include fever, fatigue, dark urine, clay-colored stool, abdominal pain, a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, and jaundice.

Luckily, scientists, researchers, and doctors have found a treatment for Hepatitis C called Sofosbuvir in December 2013. Specifically, Sofosbuvir is an oral therapy for chronic Hepatitis C. It is a direct-acting antiviral drug, which means that it targets specific steps in the hepatitis C virus's life cycle making its treatment times shorter with less adverse effects and reactions. In addition, this treatment also has very high sustained virologic response (SVR) rates implying that those that have no detectable RNA in their blood at 12 weeks of treatment are 99% likely to stay virus-free and can be considered cured.

Sofosbuvir works by blocking the creation of a specific protein that helps the hepatitis C virus replicate and grow. The proteins created by the hepatitis C virus include NS3/4A protease, NS5B RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, and NS5A protein. Sofosbuvir is known for being a highly potent inhibitor of the NS5B polymerase. The drug mimics the uridine nucleotide in order to block the NS5B polymerase. Since this drug is less likely to develop a resistance to the virus, it is known for its high drug efficacy rates. It is also generally quite well-tolerated.

Although Sofosbuvir is generally considered safe to take since there are not many severe reactions to it, there are some minor ones to take into account. These include headache, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain, insomnia, nasal drip or sore throat, and irritability. Overall, the effects of Sofosbuvir are manageable as compared to the Hepatitis C virus that it helps fight.

In addition, for the most efficient use for combatting Hepatitis C, most patients are advised to use multiple medicines at the same time to target different bacteria. It is already known that the NS5B RNA-dependent RNA polymerase can be erased using Sofosbuvir. Ribavirin can be used to target NS5A protein inhibitors and pegylated interferon (PEG-INF) can stimulate the body's immune response. There are several combination medicines available.

There have been several trials conducted to study the efficacy rate of Sofosbuvir, while taking into account the safety of the patients taking the drug. The most effective dosage and usage of this drug has been found to be 400 mg daily for 12-24 weeks. The participants in these studies were found to have high SVR rates within these time periods after such a dose if taken consistently. In fact, the NEUTRINO study found that SVR rates exceeded 90% in a 12 week program where individuals took a combination of Sofosbuvir, PEG-INF, and Ribavirin.

Sofosbuvir has shown some very promising results in its clinical trials and its creation has most definitely been an altering experience for scientists, researchers, and Hepatitis C patients everywhere. Although it has not shown 100% efficacy, the results of Sofosbuvir use have been remarkable. Researchers, scientists, and medical professionals continue to test and improve upon this drug to improve its results and get it to be even more effective on individuals affected by the hepatitis C virus. In addition, it is remarkable to see how negligible and almost inconsequential the risks of such a drug are on those taking it. Thus, Sofosbuvir has been a great invention that has helped many and will continue to do so in the future.

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