The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published final guidance recommending the use of Gilead’s Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), as part of combination therapy, to treat genotypes 1-6 chronic hepatitis C, but patients will have to wait before they can access the drug on the National Health Service.

Despite full NICE approval, patients will not gain access to Sovaldi until later this year, as NHS England has requested extra time to allow it to ensure that necessary funding arrangements are in place for the treatment, which costs £35,000 for a 12-week course. 

Full access for all HCV patients has been pegged for August, but Gilead said it is concerned that NHS England’s interim policy for patients with cirrhosis to access the drug from April have not been finalised. Those with cirrhosis would be the most likely to suffer “irreversible consequences” as a result of a delay to treatment, the firm warned.

The Institute has also published final guidance recommending Janssen's Olysio (simeprevir) as an option for patients with HCV genotypes 1 and 4.

Carole Longson, Director of the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, says both drugs could be "valuable treatment options" for patients with the condition.

The long duration and potentially unpleasant side-effects of current interferon-based treatments can discourage people with the disease from completing the full course, or even seeking treatment in the first place, she said, noting that new treatments, like Sovaldi and Olysio, "can shorten the length of interferon-based therapy and in some situations don't need to be taken with interferon at all".