September 19, 2011

Combination Treatment Helping Cure Hepatitis C

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--- According to the CDC, Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood borne infection in the United States affecting more than 3.2 million people.  But, a new drug has been found to significantly increase the cure rates for those infected.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a disease that can cause severe liver damage, joint pain and even damage to the nervous system and brain. HCV genotype 1 is the most common form of the virus and also the most difficult to treat.  In a recent study researchers discovered adding a new drug, telaprevir, to the current combination of treatment has been effective in improving cure rates to almost 80%.

The new study involved a group of 540 patients in which some were treated for a total of 24 weeks with a combination of the drugs pegylated interferon, ribavirin and telaprevir for 12 weeks and pegylated interferon and ribavirin only, for an additional 12 weeks. Other patients in the study were treated for a total of 48 weeks with the 3-drug combination.

Researchers found that many of the patients were able to stop treatment after 24 weeks and had undetectable levels of HCV.

“Vertex conducted a study to determine the optimal duration of treatment in this group who had excellent early response. If viral levels were undetectable from weeks four to 12 with the 3-drug combination, patients were randomized to receive pegylated interferon and ribavirin for an additional 12 weeks (total duration 24 weeks) or for an additional 36 weeks (total duration 48 weeks). This study convincingly showed that there was no advantage in this group with the longer duration. Current guideline is to stop all treatment in this group at 24 weeks,” Dr. Paul Thuluvath told Ivanhoe. Medical Director of the Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, who has been involved in the research regarding the new class of drugs used to treat HCV.

These new findings have made researchers hopeful that the duration of treatment for Hepatitis C can be shortened even further for patients suffering from this disease.

 “Future developments in this field will include oral medications without interferon injections and probably even shortened durations of treatment. The progress in HCV treatment has been remarkable in the past five years and we expect continued progress in the management of the ℠silent epidemic´ of HCV that causes considerable morbidity and mortality from liver failure and liver cancer,” Dr. Thuluvath told Ivanhoe.

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, September 15, 2011. And Centers for Disease Control