There's new hope for an overlooked epidemic: Two powerful drugs are nearing the market that promise to help cure many more people of liver-attacking hepatitis C - even though most who have the simmering infection don't know it yet.
Surprisingly, two-thirds of hepatitis C sufferers are thought to be baby boomers who've harbored since their younger, perhaps wilder, years a virus that can take two or three decades to do its damage.
What could be a treatment revolution is spurring governments to consider if it's time to start screening aging baby boomers for hepatitis C, just like they get various cancer checks.
Today's two-drug treatment for hepatitis C cures only about 40 percent of people with the most common variety of the virus, and causes some grueling side effects.
Now major studies show that adding a new drug -either Vertex Pharmaceuticals' telaprevir or Merck & Co.'s boceprevir - can boost those cure rates as high as 75 percent. And they allow some people to cut treatment time in half, to six months, thus lessening how long they must deal with those side effects.
If the Food and Drug Administration approves the drugs - a decision widely expected this summer - they would be the first that work by directly targeting the hepatitis C virus.