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Trial Drug Vastly Boosts Hepatitis C Cure

From UPI Health News (Business) (April 16, 2010)

Hepatitis C patients can be cured in 24 weeks when an experimental treatment is added to two established anti-viral drugs, researchers in Vienna said Friday.

Adding experimental telaprevir, an infection-treating protease inhibitor co-developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, to established anti-viral treatments peginterferon and ribavirin, can cure 93 percent to 100 percent of patients infected with hepatitis C genotype 1, one of the hardest types to cure, said researchers at the International Liver Congress 2010, the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver.

Patients taking standard peginterferon and ribavirin alone have an average 51 percent cure rate, statistics indicate.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease chronically infecting 170 million people worldwide. It is one of the top three causes of cancer death in men and a major cause of cancer death in women.

Spread by blood-to-blood contact, the disease can lead to advanced liver scarring, known as cirrhosis, as well as liver failure or liver cancer.

Even after a liver transplant, the virus almost always recurs, statistics indicate.

The study presented Friday involved 161 European and U.S. patients who enrolled in a phase II trial, designed to see how well the new drug worked in various doses after its initial safety is confirmed.

"This trial is really helpful as it shows that patients with a good early virological response only need 24 weeks of treatment and that a twice-daily dose of telaprevir is just as effective as three times a day," hepatology Professor Mark Thursz of London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine said.

"Although the number of patients in this study was relatively small and should therefore be treated with caution, I expect such findings will make an important contribution in terms of patients’ adherence to their therapy and overall treatment outcomes," he said. "This will ultimately impact on their overall quality of life."


Posted: April 2010