The hepatitis C virus (HCV) was discovered in the late 1980s. Interferon (IFN)-α was proposed as an antiviral treatment for chronic hepatitis C at about the same time. Successive improvements in IFN-α-based therapy (dose finding, pegylation, addition of ribavirin) increased the rates of sustained virologic response, i.e. the rates of curing HCV infection. These rates were further improved by adding the first available direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs to the combination of pegylated IFN-α and ribavirin. An IFN-free era finally started in 2014, yielding rates of sustained virologic response over 90% in patients treated for 8 to 24 weeks with all-oral regimens. Major challenges however remain in implementation of these new treatment strategies, not only in low- to middle-income countries, but also in high-income countries where the price of these therapies is still prohibitive. Elimination of HCV infection through treatment in certain areas is possible but raises major public health issues.
Keywords: Direct-acting antivirals; Discovery; Hepatitis; Interferon; Ribavirin.
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