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Guide to Hepatitis C for People Living With HIV
Testing, Coinfection, Treatment and Support

By Simon Collins and Tracy Swan

August 2007

Research Into New Drugs to Treat HCV

Interferon-based treatment does not work for everyone and is limited by side effects that are severe enough that many people postpone treatment. However, new therapies are not likely to be approved by the FDA for several years. Waiting for better treatments may be a good option for people who don't need HCV treatment now. This includes people with mild liver damage.

For a long time, research into HCV was difficult because the virus couldn't be grown in laboratories. This changed recently when researchers successfully developed new models to study the viral life cycle, which makes it easier to develop drugs that stop viral replication.

Many new treatments for hepatitis C are being researched. Some are oral drugs with similarities to HIV medications (protease and polymerase inhibitors), though they will not be active against HIV. These new drugs are likely to be studied first in people with HCV monoinfection, although treatment activists are advocating that studies include coinfected people much earlier in drug development.

As with HIV drugs, combination therapy may be essential in order not to develop resistance. A high level of adherence (better than 95%) is also likely to be important. In order to avoid resistance, people will probably need to use the new drugs in combination with interferon (and perhaps ribavirin) until there are enough new agents to construct interferon-free regimens. Pegylated interferon will continue to be part of HCV treatment for years to come.

To make an informed decision about starting or deferring HCV treatment, it may be helpful to learn about new drugs that may come along in the future. Only brief details are included here of some of the compounds in development, but the resources listed can keep you up-to-date with this research.

Drugs that specifically target parts of the hepatitis C virus (protease and polymerase inhibitors) are currently in development. Some have made it into clinical trials; others will follow. New formulations of interferon that can be taken less frequently are also being tested, as are immune-based therapies, and therapeutic and preventive vaccines.


Where to Find Information on New HCV Drugs

An update on HCV drugs in clinical development is included in the TAG Pipeline Report, available to download as a PDF file from the TAG website: www.treatmentactiongroup.org

Reports relating to new HCV treatment are also regularly on the NATAP website: www.natap.org

An ongoing, detailed list of HCV drugs in development is also posted to the HCV Advocate website: www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/hepC/HCVDrugs.html


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