New drug targeting hepatitis C has been launched in UK. The pill, called Victrelis, will help half of the 200,000 Britons who suffer from the virus.
It treats those with the most common form of the illness, genotype 1. The blood-borne infection attacks the liver, causing cirrhosis and in some cases cancer.
But in trials the tablets cleared the virus in more than a third of patients. It is the first licensed drug to target the virus directly.
Victrelis, also called Boceprevir, will now be available on the NHS and in private clinics.
Health watchdogs fast-tracked its approval following outstanding trial results on 1,000 patients.
"It is called the silent epidemic because hundreds of thousands carry the virus, yet the great majority have no idea they are infected," the Sun quoted the Hepatitis C Trust's Charles Gore as saying.
"It can take decades for symptoms to emerge, and when they do, damage to the liver may have already occurred," he explained.
The virus exists in different strains called genotypes. Genotype 1 is the most common in Britain, affecting half of sufferers.
"Over the last ten years there has been little development in treatment," Dr Ashley Brown, consultant hepatologist at St Mary's and Hammersmith Hospitals in London, said.
"Victrelis is the first licensed drug to directly target the virus. It offers improved outcomes and new hope for those in whom previous treatment has been unsuccessful," Brown added.