Hope Against Hepatitis C
July 30, 2010
Robust new therapies against hepatitis C virus could begin reaching the market as early as next year, and two protease inhibitors are top candidates. Though infected individuals can remain asymptomatic for decades, about 5 percent to 20 percent of people with HCV will develop cirrhosis over a period of 20 to 30 years, and 1 percent to 5 percent will die of cancer or cirrhosis, according to CDC.
In May, preliminary data from a late-stage clinical trial showed Vertex Pharmaceuticals' experimental drug telaprevir, in combination with existing treatments, had an effective cure rate of 75 percent. Just 44 percent of patients given standard therapy alone, alpha interferon and ribavirin, had a sustained viral response. Many of the patients taking telaprevir needed just a 24-week course, compared with the 24- to 48-week regimen on standard drugs. About half of patients receiving standard treatment either fail to suppress the virus or cannot tolerate the drugs' grueling side effects.
In addition to Vertex's telaprevir, Merck is working on the protease inhibitor boceprevir.
If approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the new drugs will probably have to be used with interferon for the next five years. However, physicians are hoping that new combination HCV therapies will be developed that would do away with the need for weekly interferon injections. An estimated 300,000 people have failed on the existing therapy. Early data suggest half of these could achieve a sustained response with telaprevir.
Three-quarters of those infected do not know it because they have not been diagnosed. In June, FDA approved a rapid HCV blood test developed by OraSure Technologies. Future oral swab rapid tests might allow health workers to diagnose HCV at churches, street fairs, and other venues.
New York Times
07.22.2010; Andrew Pollack
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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