Local liver disease experts are testing a new drug just approved by the FDA earlier this month which promises to provide relief to patients suffering from hepatitis C and its complications, 1200 WOAI news reports.


  "Hepatitis C is the number one cause for liver transplantation in the US," Dr. Fernando Membreno, a hepatitis C expert and a physician with the Texas Transplant Physicians Group told 1200 WOAI news.  "It is also a very important cause for liver cancer."


  Hepatitis C is caused by tattooing, IV drug use, viral transmission, and shared personal items.  It is often called the 'Baby Boomers Disease' because the Centers for Disease Control is uring people born between 1946 to 1964 to be screened due to a lower awareness of the causes of Hepatitis C in the seventies and eighties, which may have led many individuals to become infected.


  The FDA's approval of Sovaldi is a major step forward, Dr. Mebrano said, because it is a total treatment in pill form.


  "This is the first time that we have a pill only treatment," he said.  "We used to have a treatment which included Interferon, which is an injection."


  An estimated 4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C.  Dr. Membreno says the ability to fight the disease in the early stages would not only reduce mortality, but would cut down on the need for expensive transplants and other treatments, the costs of many of which are borne by the taxpayers by Medicare, Medicaid, ChIP and other programs.


  "Everybody who was born between 1945 and 1965, regardless of any risk factors, should be screened," Dr. Membreno said.  He said hepatitis C can lie dormant in a patient for years, and he says many Baby Boomers will find as they get older they will begin suffering the effects of the disease.  He says screening now can allow new drugs like Sovaldi to begin taking effect sooner.