Oral Drug Cocktail Is Treatment for Hep C

Hepatitis C growth slowed with oral medication

(RxWiki News) Hepatitis C is a serious condition that damages the liver and can be difficult to treat. Here's the latest on its treatment: A new university study says that a drug combo may be able to slow the disease’s growth.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Bristol-Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company, studied patients with hepatitis C and found that a combination of two investigational antiviral drugs reduced the viral load, or the severity of the infection.

"Hepatitis C patients should talk to their doctor about drug options."

Lead study author Dr. Anna S. Lok, professor of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Michigan Medical School, and her colleagues tracked 21 patients, all of whom had previous failed treatment for hepatitis C with the drugs PEG-interferon alfa and ribavirin.

The team gave 10 patients a combination of two investigational direct-acting antiviral agents, called daclatasvir and asunaprevir, and two other drugs, PEG-interferon alfa and ribavirin, which are commonly given for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Then, they gave 11 other patients just PEG-interferon alfa and ribavirin.

The researchers report that the virus was undetectable in patients given the four-drug treatment after 24 weeks of treatment, and also at 12 weeks after stopping treatment.

The two-drug cocktail was not as successful: Only four of the 11 patients achieved “sustained virologic response,” or no detectable hepatitis C virus in the blood, says the researchers.

This study is the first to show that hepatitis C can be improved without the use of interferon or ribavirin, two drugs that have side effects may be ineffective in some hepatitis C patients, says Lok in a press release. “It’s exciting that the four-drug regimen was so successful.”

Patients in both groups reported mild or moderate diarrhea as a common side effect of the drugs.

About 3.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the U.S., and often transmitted through injection drug use or blood transfusions given before blood screening became common practice.

Most people who are infected with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. People are usually diagnosed with the illness years later when their liver shows signs of damage.

It’s the most serious type of hepatitis infection, and can lead to severe health problems, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), liver cancer and liver failure.

This clinical study was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Review Date: 
January 23, 2012