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Schering-Plough Announces FDA Approval of PEGINTRON(TM) and REBETOL(R) Combination Therapy for Treating Pediatric Hepatitis C

First and only approved peginterferon in combination with ribavirin for previously untreated children with chronic hepatitis C addresses unmet medical need

KENILWORTH, N.J., Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Schering-Plough Corporation (NYSE: SGP) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted marketing approval to PEGINTRON(TM) (peginterferon alfa-2b) and REBETOL(R) (ribavirin, USP) combination therapy for use in previously untreated patients 3 years of age and older with chronic hepatitis C. This represents the first and only approved peginterferon in combination with ribavirin for treating pediatric hepatitis C. It is estimated that approximately 130,000 children in the United States are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The most common mode of HCV infection for pediatric patients today is maternal-infant transmission.

The only previously approved therapy in the United States for treating pediatric hepatitis C is Schering-Plough's conventional interferon INTRON(R) A (Interferon alfa-2b, recombinant) in combination with REBETOL. REBETOL is available both as capsules and in an oral solution formulation specifically available for pediatric use.

"With the FDA approval of PEGINTRON combination therapy for this new indication, U.S. physicians now have access to the current standard of care for hepatitis C for use in treating their pediatric patients. Thankfully, the number of children with hepatitis C is small, although this chronic infection over time can lead to serious liver disease," said Robert J. Spiegel, M.D., chief medical officer and senior vice president, Schering-Plough Research Institute. "This approval further underscores Schering-Plough's leadership and long-term commitment to developing new treatment options and innovative therapies to meet the needs of patients with hepatitis C."

The approval of PEGINTRON for the pediatric indication is based on the results of a clinical trial in 107 previously untreated patients 3 to 17 years of age with chronic hepatitis C and compensated liver disease. In the study, patients infected with HCV genotype 1 or 4 and those with HCV genotype 3 with HCV RNA greater than 600,000 IU/mL (high viral load [HVL]) were assigned 48 weeks of therapy, while those infected with HCV genotype 2 or 3 with HCV RNA less than 600,000 IU/mL (low viral load [LVL]) received 24 weeks of therapy. Of the patients with HCV genotype 1, 4 or 3 HVL who were assigned to 48 weeks of treatment, 55 percent achieved SVR. As with adult patients, SVR in pediatric patients with HCV genotype 2 or 3 LVL was much higher than in those with genotype 1; the SVR rate was 96 percent in children with HCV genotype 2 or 3 LVL.

In the pediatric population, the recommended dose of PEGINTRON, based on body surface area, is 60 mcg/m2/week subcutaneously in combination with 15 mg/kg/day of REBETOL, based on body weight, orally in two divided doses. The treatment duration for patients with HCV genotype 1 is 48 weeks and for patients with HCV genotype 2 or 3 it is 24 weeks. Patients receiving PEGINTRON combination therapy (excluding those with HCV genotype 2 or 3) should be discontinued from therapy at week 12 if their HCV RNA dropped less than 2 log10 compared to pretreatment or at 24 weeks if they have detectable HCV RNA at treatment week 24.

During the course of therapy lasting up to 48 weeks in patients 3 to 17 years of age, weight loss and growth inhibition were common. Some children who experienced growth inhibition during therapy still had inhibited growth velocity 6 months following the end of treatment. Most common adverse reactions (more than 25 percent) observed in these studies were pyrexia, headache, neutropenia, fatigue, anorexia, injection site erythema and vomiting. Three percent were treated for clinical hypothyroidism.

Dose modifications were required in 25 percent of patients, most commonly for anemia, neutropenia and weight loss. Therapy was discontinued prematurely in two percent of the patients.

About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. It is the most common blood-borne infection in America and the most common form of liver disease, affecting nearly 5 million people in the United States alone. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer, and the number one reason for liver transplants in the United States.


In the United States, PEGINTRON is indicated for use in combination with ribavirin in patients 3 years of age or older, and as monotherapy in patients 18 years of age and older, for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in patients with compensated liver disease who have not been previously treated with interferon alpha.

Important Safety Information Regarding U.S. Labeling for PEGINTRON and REBETOL

Alpha interferons, including PEGINTRON, may cause or aggravate fatal or life-threatening neuropsychiatric, autoimmune, ischemic, and infectious disorders. Patients should be monitored closely with periodic clinical and laboratory evaluations. Patients with persistently severe or worsening signs or symptoms of these conditions should be withdrawn from therapy. In many, but not all cases, these disorders resolve after stopping PEGINTRON therapy.

Use with Ribavirin: Ribavirin may cause birth defects and death of the unborn child. Extreme care must be taken to avoid pregnancy in female patients and in female partners of male patients. Ribavirin causes hemolytic anemia. The anemia associated with REBETOL therapy may result in a worsening of cardiac disease. Ribavirin is genotoxic and mutagenic and should be considered a potential carcinogen.


PEGINTRON is contraindicated in patients with known hypersensitivity reactions such as urticaria, angioedema, bronchoconstriction, anaphylaxis, Stevens Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis to interferon alpha or any other component of the product, autoimmune hepatitis, and hepatic decompensation (Child-Pugh score greater than 6 [class B and C]) in cirrhotic CHC patients before or during treatment. PEGINTRON/REBETOL combination therapy is additionally contraindicated in women who are pregnant or may become pregnant (see Boxed Warning and Pregnancy section), men whose female partners are pregnant, patients with hemoglobinopathies (e.g., thalassemia major, sickle-cell anemia), and patients with creatinine clearance less than 50 mL per min.


REBETOL therapy should not be started until a report of a negative pregnancy test has been obtained immediately prior to planned initiation of therapy. Extreme care must be taken to avoid pregnancy in female patients and in female partners of male patients during therapy and 6 months post-treatment. Patients should use at least two effective forms of contraception and have monthly pregnancy tests during therapy and for 6 months after completion of therapy. If this drug is used during pregnancy or if a patient becomes pregnant, the patient should be apprised of the potential hazard to a fetus. A Ribavirin Pregnancy Registry has been established to monitor maternal-fetal outcomes of pregnancies in female patients and female partners of male patients exposed to ribavirin during treatment, and for 6 months following cessation of treatment. Physicians and patients are encouraged to report such cases by calling 1-800-593-2214.

Incidence of Adverse Events

Most common adverse reactions (more than 40%) in adult patients receiving either PEGINTRON or PEGINTRON/REBETOL are injection site inflammation/reaction, fatigue/asthenia, headache, rigors, fevers, nausea, myalgia, and anxiety/emotional lability/irritability. Most common adverse reactions (more than 25%) in pediatric patients receiving PEGINTRON/REBETOL are pyrexia, headache, neutropenia, fatigue, anorexia, injection site erythema and vomiting.

In a study with PEGINTRON/REBETOL (weight-based) combination therapy in adult patients, anemia with weight-based dosing was 29%; however, the majority of these cases were mild and responded to dose reductions. The incidence of serious adverse reactions reported for the weight-based REBETOL group was 12%. In many but not all cases, adverse reactions resolved after dose reduction or discontinuation of therapy. Some patients experienced ongoing or new serious adverse reactions during the 6-month follow-up period. Discontinuations for adverse events were 15% and were related to known interferon effects of psychiatric, systemic (e.g., fatigue, headache), or gastrointestinal adverse reactions. Dose modifications due to adverse reactions occurred in 29% of patients.

Most common adverse reactions with PEGINTRON/REBETOL (weight-based) combination therapy were psychiatric which occurred among 68-69% of patients. These psychiatric adverse reactions included most commonly depression, irritability, and insomnia, each reported by approximately 30-40% of subjects in all treatment groups. Suicidal behavior (ideation, attempts and suicides) occurred in 2% of all patients during treatment or during follow-up after treatment cessation. PEGINTRON induced fatigue or headache in approximately two-thirds of patients, with fever or rigors in approximately half of the patients. The severity of some of these systemic symptoms (e.g., fever and headache) tends to decrease as treatment continues. There was a 23-24% incidence overall for injection site reactions or inflammation.

Individual serious adverse reactions occurred at a frequency less than or equal to 1% and included suicide attempt, suicidal ideation, severe depression; psychosis, aggressive reaction, relapse of drug addiction/overdose; nerve palsy (facial, oculomotor); cardiomyopathy, myocardial infarction, angina, pericardial effusion, retinal ischemia, retinal artery or vein thrombosis, blindness, decreased visual acuity, optic neuritis, transient ischemic attack, supraventricular arrhythmias, loss of consciousness; neutropenia, infection (sepsis, pneumonia, abscess, cellulitis); emphysema, bronchiolitis obliterans, pleural effusion, gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, gout, hyperglycemia, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, autoimmune thrombocytopenia with or without purpura, rheumatoid arthritis, interstitial nephritis, lupus-like syndrome, sarcoidosis, aggravated psoriasis, urticaria, injection site necrosis, vasculitis and phototoxicity.

Additional serious adverse events included hallucinations. bipolar disorder, mania, encephalopathy (usually elderly treated with higher doses of PEGINTRON), hypotension, tachycardia, retinopathy including macular edema, retinal hemorrhage, cotton wool spots, papilledema, ischemic and hemorrhagic cerebrovascular events, bone marrow toxicity (cytopenia and very rarely aplastic anemia), thyroiditis, dental and periodontal disorders, hemorrhagic/ischemic colitis, dyspnea, pulmonary infiltrates, pneumonia, interstitial pneumonitis, hepatic failure, increases in serum creatinine in patients with renal insufficiency, acute hypersensitivity (angioedema, bronchoconstriction, anaphylaxis and cutaneous eruptions) and hypertriglyceridemia.

During the course of therapy lasting up to 48 weeks in patients ages 3 through 17 years receiving PEGINTRON/REBETOL combination therapy, weight loss and growth inhibition were common.

Please see important full U.S. prescribing information and the Medication Guide for PEGINTRON at

About Schering-Plough

Schering-Plough is an innovation-driven, science-centered global health care company. Through its own biopharmaceutical research and collaborations with partners, Schering-Plough creates therapies that help save and improve lives around the world. The company applies its research-and-development platform to human prescription, animal health and consumer health care products. Schering-Plough's vision is to "Earn Trust, Every Day" with the doctors, patients, customers and other stakeholders served by its colleagues around the world. The company is based in Kenilworth, N.J., and its Web site is

SCHERING-PLOUGH DISCLOSURE NOTICE: The information in this press release includes certain "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including statements relating to the potential market for PEGINTRON and REBETOL. Forward-looking statements relate to expectations or forecasts of future events. Schering-Plough does not assume the obligation to update any forward-looking statement. Many factors could cause actual results to differ materially from Schering-Plough's forward-looking statements, including uncertainties in the regulatory process, among other uncertainties. For further details about these and other factors that may impact the forward-looking statements, see Schering-Plough's Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including Part II, Item 1A. "Risk Factors" in the third quarter 2008 10-Q, filed Oct. 29, 2008.

SOURCE Schering-Plough Corporation
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