WEDNESDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- The recently approved drug Incivek, combined with two standard drugs, is highly effective at treating hepatitis C, a notoriously difficult-to-manage liver disease, two new studies show.
The drug works not only in patients just starting treatment, but in those who failed earlier treatment, the research found.
The hepatitis C virus can lurk in the body for years, causing liver damage, cirrhosis and even liver failure.
"This is a significant advance in the treatment of hepatitis C," said Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., who was not involved in either study.
"We know that if we can get rid of the hepatitis C, we can prevent the progression of [liver] disease," he said. "This means we can prevent the progression of cirrhosis, we can prevent the development of cancer and also prevent the need for liver transplantation in a large number of people."
Incivek (telaprevir) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May and is the second drug in a class of drugs called protease inhibitors to be approved to fight hepatitis C. The other drug, called Victrelis (boceprevir), was also approved in May.
The standard treatment for hepatitis C has been a combination of two drugs, pegylated-interferon and ribavirin, which are given for a year. If protease inhibitors such as Incivek are added to the mix, the "viral cure" rate improves and the treatment time is reduced to six months, researchers found.
Both reports were published in the June 23 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
In one study, a Phase 3 trial known as ADVANCE, patients were randomly assigned to either a placebo or the treatment in a double-blind study, which means that neither the patients nor the researchers
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