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New Drug Shows Promise for Curing Hepatitis C
Date:4/7/2010

Antiviral telaprevir works when previous treatments failed, trial results show

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Adding the antiviral drug telaprevir to a second-round treatment for hepatitis cures about half the people who were not helped in the first round, new research shows.

"This is the first large study in patients who had not responded to standard treatment," said Dr. John G. McHutchison, associate director of the Duke Clinical Research Institute and lead author of a report in the April 8 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study is one of the last steps in a series of trials designed to get approval for the use of the drug in clinical practice. Approval of the drug will bring encouragement to people whose hepatitis C infection had not been cured by the existing treatments, McHutchison said.

"There has been no alternative for people who have been treated and have not responded," he added. "So it holds great promise for them, that potentially something will be available in the future that can cure half of them."

About 4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, a virus that is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation. It is usually transmitted by infected blood, most often by using a contaminated needle.

Standard treatment for hepatitis C is a 48-week course of two drugs, peginterferon alpha and ribavirin, which cures about 40 percent to 50 percent of patients but is accompanied by side effects, such as a severe rash, that makes many discontinue the treatment. Previous studies have shown a substantial improvement in cure rates when telaprevir is added to the standard therapy.

Until now, the only recourse for those who were not helped by the first round of treatment was a second round of the same therapy. The newly reported trial, sponsored by Vertex Pharmaceuticals, the maker of telaprevir, included
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