Raunds woman with Hepatitis C already seeing a difference from ‘truly amazing drug’

Susan Wathen from Raunds
Susan Wathen from Raunds

A woman who fought for the best possible drugs after contracting Hepatitis C from contaminated blood is already seeing results from the treatment.

Susan Wathen from Raunds only found out she had Hepatitis C in 2014, although she may have been infected up to 30 years ago after being given contaminated blood by the NHS before 1991.

Susan Wathen from Raunds with the Harvoni medication she has been fighting for

Susan Wathen from Raunds with the Harvoni medication she has been fighting for

Ever since her diagnosis, she has been fighting for the best possible drugs and she finally got the Harvoni drug, which is largely symptom-free and has a 90 per cent cure rate, last month.

Mrs Wathen said: “Just two weeks after I started treatment with Harvoni, my first blood test showed that my viral load, which was 2,900,000 (with 800,000 being high) before starting treatment, has declined to such an extent that no virus was detected.

“This is a truly amazing drug and yet on the same day that I received this wonderful result I learned via the Hepatitis C Trust that NHS England, for the first time in its history is restricting access to a drug, which is this drug.

“It is the first time that NHS England has gone against NICE guidelines which state that this drug is cost effective and must be made available.

“Not only that but financial penalties will be imposed on any NHS trust which exceeds the ‘cap’ of patients it treats each month.

“Having experienced this drug for myself, I cannot believe that victims of contaminated blood such as myself are now being told, by the very organisation that infected them, that they cannot have treatment due to rationing.

“It is disgraceful that patients with Hep C are being singled out.”

The Hepatitis C Trust has written to NHS England to ask it to reconsider its decision to limit the number of people with Hepatitis C who are allowed access to new NICE approved drugs that cure the disease.

However, after NHS England replied with a response that the trust said was not satisfactory, it is now considering a judicial review of the decision.

A statement by Charles Gore, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “It is truly ironic that NHS England should chose to start rationing drugs that are so effective they cure almost everyone who is treated.

“It feels like people with Hepatitis C are being picked on.

“We are having to look to the courts to protect them.”

Samantha May, the trust’s support services manager, added: “Our helpline is overwhelmed with people who cannot understand why NICE says they can be treated now but their hospitals are sending them away and telling them they’ll get a letter at some point in the future.”

Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver.

If left untreated, it can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

Mrs Wathen added: “It is clear that there is still some way to go before many others are as fortunate as myself.”

For more information about Hepatitis C and the support available, go to www.hepctrust.org.uk.