New treatment brings hope for young patients with hepatitis C

Published: Dec. 12, 2017 at 4:38 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Another troubling development in the opioid epidemic: The number of new hepatitis C cases has nearly doubled among pregnant women in the United States in recent years.

That’s affecting some unintended victims: babies, in utero.

Hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer, but a combination drug is helping the littlest victims fight back.

Talon Hendrickson-Zimmerman, 11, plays without a care these days since his hepatitis C is gone. He no longer has to pack gloves, in case he gets hurt.

“If they needed to help me, they would have to wear them, because they couldn’t touch my blood cause I had hepatitis C,” he said.

Talon got Hepatitis C from his birth mom, who used intravenous drugs. He was diagnosed at two years old.

His first treatment, interferon, made him terribly sick. Last year he entered a clinical trial for Harvoni, made of two anti-viral drugs. Talon’s adoptive mom, Lisa Mills, says his viral load dropped from 1.2 million to 20 in a week. Then, his doctor gave them great news.

“When she came in to the room and told us after two weeks on this medication, he is cured, I mean you just literally cried. We cried,” his adoptive mom said.

Doctor Karen Murray at Seattle Children’s Hospital says Harvoni was approved for adults and older kids. As soon as she could, she got Talon in a trial for younger children. He took two pills a day for three months with no side effects.

“The efficacy of the treatment is truly astounding. 98 percent in his age group,” she said.

Talon will be monitored for five years.

“He doesn't have to worry about going through liver transplants, infecting other people. He can play basketball, he can have a nosebleed,” Mills said.

Harvoni is in clinical trial for children as young as three.