Half the Dose for Hepatitis C Remission

Incivek Pegasys and Rebotol dose may be reduced and still effective

(RxWiki News) Less sometimes is worth more! Finding the "sweet spot" for taking a drug while minimizing the downside of drug exposure is the goal of many drug researchers. A new multi-continent study has done just.

The newly approved therapy for hepatitis C teams telaprevir (Incivek) with peginterferon alfa (Pegasys) and ribavirin (Copegus and Rebetol) and is just as effective if taken for 24 weeks compared to a 48 week regimen.

"Ask your doctor or pharmacist about reducing your drug therapy."

Michael W. Fried, MD, professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, director of the UNC Liver Center and a co-author of the ILLUMINATE study, reports this is great news for four million people in the US suffering from this chronic liver disease. These medications do have side effects, so reducing a patient’s exposure to these medications will be beneficial for their health.

Lead author Kenneth E. Sherman, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine reports this study included 540 patients with chronic genotype 1 hepatitis C who either had never been treated with the current protocol or whose treatment was previously unsuccessful.

All the patients began taking all three drugs for a period of 12 weeks. Then, Incivek was discontinued.

At this point, patients who tested negative for the hepatitis C virus continued therapy for either 12 or 36 weeks with the other two drugs, Pegasys and Rebetol. The first group received a total of 24 weeks of drug therapy while the other group was treated for 48 weeks.

In the group that took drugs for 24 weeks, 92 percent ultimately had the virus undetectable in their blood after treatment was discontinued. In the group on drug therapy for 48 weeks, 88 percent also achieved a cure to hepatitis C.

Dr. Fried reported mild to moderate side effects were associated with Incivek that included rashes and anemia. All were manageable.

This study was funded by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Tibotec. Vertex markets Invicek in the US while Tiboetec will market the drug in Europe.

This study is published in the Sept. 15, 2011 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Review Date: 
September 13, 2011