Up until 2011, pegylated-interferon with ribavirin was the standard treatment for chronic HCV, but management of the treatment is complex and many patients do not finish their 48-week treatment course because interferon is not well tolerated and can be difficult to access in some settings.
Recent scientific advances have led to the development of new antiviral drugs for HCV, the direct acting antivirals (DAAs), which have revolutionized the therapeutic landscape. In recognition of this, in 2016 the WHO updated its treatment guidelines to recommend that DAA regimens be used for the treatment of people with hepatitis C infection rather than regimens with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. DAAs are much more effective (with cure rates of >95% in clinical trials, including in previously hard-to-treat populations), safer, and better tolerated than existing therapies. Their use has simplified HCV treatment by decreasing the duration of treatment, simplifying monitoring and laboratory requirements, and increasing cure rates. However, despite the low cost of production, access to these treatments remains quite limited, due mostly to the high price charged by innovator pharmaceutical companies.