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Tailored Hepatitis C Therapy May Cut Treatment Time in Half
Date:9/14/2011

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Patients infected with hepatitis C virus who have an early favorable response to a new three-drug regimen can be cured of the disease in half the normal time, a new study says.

In the multinational study, researchers showed that tailoring patients' treatment regimen to their response to the drugs, which is known as response-guided therapy, enabled many patients to cut treatment time in half and still achieve the same cure rates.

The paper was published Sept. 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Patients treated with this regimen who clear virus from their blood by 4 weeks of therapy and who remain virus negative after 12 weeks of therapy can shorten total treatment time from 48 to 24 weeks and have an excellent chance of hepatitis C virus cure," said the study's lead author, Dr. Kenneth E. Sherman, Gould Professor of Medicine and director of the digestive diseases division at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio.

The regimen combines peginterferon and ribavirin, two drugs that have been the standard of care for hepatitis C for more than a decade, with a recently approved hepatitis C medication called telaprevir, which is in a class of medications known as protease inhibitors. Telaprevir and another protease inhibitor called boceprevir were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May. The drugs work by blocking an enzyme that the hepatitis C virus needs in order to replicate itself.

For the study, Sherman and his colleagues studied 540 men and women with hepatitis C who hadn't previously been treated for the disease. All of the patients started therapy by receiving the three-drug regimen for 12 weeks, followed by just the peginterferon-ribavirin combination.

After 20 weeks, 322 patients who had an extended rapid virologic response (meaning they had undetectable levels of the
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