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Schering-Plough Hepatitis C Treatment More Effective Than Roche Treatment, Especially Among Obese Patients, Study Says

May 18, 2005

Schering-Plough's Peg-Intron treatment is more effective at eliminating the hepatitis C virus than Roche's Pegasys treatment, particularly for obese patients, according to a small, informal retrospective study released this week at the annual Digestive Disease Week meeting in Chicago, Reuters reports (Pierson, Reuters, 5/17). Both drugs are long-acting interferons that are injected under the skin to boost the immune system to enable it to combat the virus and are taken in combination with ribavirin, an antiviral drug that increases the drugs' effectiveness (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/23/03). However, the dosage of Peg-Intron is determined by a patient's body weight, while Pegasys is given in a standard dose to all patients regardless of weight. Dr. Nizar Zein, a professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, analyzed patient records of 86 Caucasian patients, each of whom had been diagnosed with the genotype 1 strain of hepatitis C, the type of the virus that is hardest to cure. None of the patients had received prior treatment, and 28 of the patients were classified as obese. Zein studied the patients' outcomes from 2001 to 2004. According to Zein, 53% of the obese patients and 48% of nonobese patients receiving Peg-Intron effectively eliminated the virus during the study period, compared with 18% of obese patients and 28% of nonobese patients taking Pegasys. Schering-Plough currently is conducting a head-to-head trial of the two treatments, but the results will not be available until 2007. About four million people in the United States are estimated to be infected with hepatitis C, according to Reuters (Reuters, 5/17).

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