More than 3% of the world’s population is infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV.) The consequences of this tidal wave of illness are potentially as severe as cancer and death. HCV is a blood-borne disease that can be transmitted sexually and perinatally as well as through needle sharing, unsterilized medical equipment, and contaminated blood products. Chronic HCV infection can lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer. It is estimated that up to 350,000 people die every year due to HCV-related liver disease. Through remarkable advances, streamlined treatments are possible with minimal side effects. However, the high prices of the new generation of highly effective medicines to treat and cure hepatitis C, are causing accessibility problems even in fully developed countries.
While the treatment landscape for chronic HCV is experiencing a revolution since the emergence of the new direct antiviral agents with cure rates exceeding 90%, these new drugs are priced out of reach in low and middle income countries where most affected people live. The current standard treatment in most of these countries is the combination of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin that depending on the genotype, cures less than half of treated patients with important side effects. Moreover, PEG-INF still remains inaccessible to most patients and their countries’ health systems.
Notwithstanding price concessions for these HCV breakthrough treatments in low- and middle-income countries, deep discounting from the initial high price point still presents an unsustainable burden on health systems around the world.
How to meaningfully break down barriers to access and reach all patients, including those at the margins of society and avoid the devastating consequences of the infection?
TrekTx is a new model in the pharmaceutical industry. Trek will disrupt the market by offering highly effective HCV treatments at below market prices. Its founders are highly experienced leaders in the biopharmaceutical industry with successful track records in the laboratory, the clinic and the marketplace. Additionally, Trek is partnering with Diagnostics for All to develop an assay that inexpensively and rapidly detects the virus and differentiates genotype so a patient can be ushered to appropriate treatment. A rapid and inexpensive diagnostic test to detect HCV itself will be a breakthrough for the 100-200 million people infected around the world.