A "LIFE-changing" new drug designed to treat the hepatitis C virus can almost treble the cure rate for patients, studies have shown.
Chronic hepatitis C is a serious viral infection of the liver.
Many patients did not respond well to current treatments but could be helped with boceprevir, said Pharmac medical director Dr Peter Moodie.
"Clinical evidence shows that, given the genetic characteristics of a patient, a simple genetic test can fairly accurately predict how they might respond to treatment," he said.
About 25 to 35 per cent of patients respond to the currently available treatment. With use of boceprevir, the response rate increases to 70 to 75 per cent. Victrelis is the first new hepatitis C treatment made available to New Zealanders in the past decade.
Hepatitis C genotype 1 is the most common form of the condition, and affects about 50 per cent of all known sufferers.
If left untreated, hepatitis C can cause serious liver disease including cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death.
Professor Ed Gane, chief hepatologist and deputy director of the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit at Auckland City Hospital, said Victrelis was a protease inhibitor and worked directly on the hepatitis C virus to stop it replicating.
"It is used in combination with other drugs - peginterferon alfa and ribavirin - which prevent the virus from becoming resistant to Victrelis."