SANANTONIO -- South Texas patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) have launched a petition to speed up development of some promising new drugs. They believe a pharmaceutical company is putting profits ahead of people.

Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver. It s the number one reason for liver transplants in the U.S. It kills more people than AIDS.

Margaret Dudley, 61, of San Antonio is a woman on a mission. More than a decade ago, she had permanent cosmetic tattooing. Last fall, she was tested for hepatitis C, a deadly disease she believes she contracted from the tattoos.

You know, I had no idea, Dudley said. I had no reason to think it would come back positive, but it did.

HCV hides out in the liver. Over the years, cysts form and scar tissue forms causing cirrhosis or hardening of the liver. Tumors can develop and the liver can fail.

Two promising pills from two different drug makers showed a 100 percent cure rate in early clinical trials when combined. GS-7977 is made by Gilead. Daclatasvir is from Bristol-Myers Squibb. But the companies have each invested millions and cannot agree on moving forward to get the winning combination to patients which could save their lives.

So that s basically what me and millions of others have been waiting for, Dudley commented. We started this petition asking Gilead Sciences to please go forward in these trials. We re asking them to put best patient health before profits.

Dudley has turned into a patient activist, using her voice to speak for four million Americans, mostly baby boomers, infected with this insidious disease.

She has 3,000 signatures on her online petition so far. She says public pressure may spark the pharmaceutical companies to keep going with clinical trials.

Dudley s goal is to gather 100,000 signatures by July 28, 2012, which is World Hepatitis Day.

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