NEW YORK (Dec. 28, 2007) -- For patients with hepatitis C, having a low blood platelet count is a frequent complication associated with advanced disease. This problem is compounded by the fact that standard antiviral treatment for the disease can further reduce platelet numbers to dangerously low levels, effectively denying these patients the treatment they urgently need. Now, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that a new drug, eltrombopag, appears to significantly boost platelet counts, opening the door to effective treatment.
"In this study, eltrombopag increased platelet counts in a dose-dependent manner, allowing more patients to complete the first 12 weeks of antiviral therapy -- an important treatment goal," says Dr. Samuel Sigal, who led the study at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City -- one of 22 study sites.
Dr. Sigal is assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and assistant attending hepatologist in the Center for Liver Diseases and Transplantation at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
The Phase 2 placebo-controlled study followed 74 patients with low platelet counts and cirrhosis of the liver due to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Seventy-four percent of those randomized to take the lowest dose (30 milligrams daily) saw their platelet counts go up significantly, while 79 percent and 95 percent of the participants saw increases with the higher doses (50 or 75 milligrams daily, respectively). And, 12 weeks of antiviral therapy were completed by 36, 53 and 65 percent of patients at the three dose levels -- with increased numbers matched to the size of the dose. Underlining the trend, less than a quarter of patients receiving placebo completed their therapy.
The study identified side effects -- including headaches, dry mouth, abdominal pain and nausea. None were serious enough
|Contact: Andrew Klein|
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College