On most Thursdays, a small group of patients assembles at the VA hospital in West Haven because they share a common disease — hepatitis C – and a common treatment — a protocol of new antiviral drugs. West Haven has been one of several veterans’ hospitals nationwide leading efforts to better treat – and hopefully cure — hepatitis C, a virus that is four times more common among veterans than in the general population. Nationally about 4,000 veterans have taken the new antiviral drugs since they went on the market in 2011 costing an estimated $100 million in prescriptions. “People have kind of gulped when they see this [the cost],” said David Ross, the director of the national VA’s HIV, Hepatitis and Public Health Pathogens Program. “But these drugs make a difference.’’
Most of the patients in West Haven are still completing the full year of triple-drug therapy, but early results are promising, VA staff says.