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Roche's Investigational Polymerase Inhibitor, Combined with PEGASYS(R) and COPEGUS(TM), Shows Potent Antiviral Activity in Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C at Four Weeks

- Roche progresses R1626 into phase IIb study, called POLI 1 -

BOSTON, Nov. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- R1626, one of Roche's new investigational drugs for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, has shown promising antiviral activity when given in combination with PEGASYS(R) (peginterferon alfa-2a) and COPEGUS(TM) (ribavirin), according to results being presented at the American Association for the Study of the Liver Disease (AASLD) meeting, being held in Boston, Nov. 2-6. After four weeks of treatment with this triple combination, the virus could no longer be detected in up to 81 percent of patients, with a mean decrease in viral load of 5.2 log10 from baseline. This is indicative of a robust virological response, and R1626 is being progressed into Phase IIb study as a result of these findings.

R1626 belongs to a class of antivirals called polymerase inhibitors, which are being investigated in combination with the current standard of care, pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The hope is that this combination will increase the number of patients who are able to be successfully treated for hepatitis C.

"The results from this Phase IIa study show that R1626 has a profound antiviral effect when used in combination with PEGASYS plus COPEGUS," said Dr. Paul Pockros, Scripps Clinic, San Diego, California, the lead investigator of the study. "This effect of R1626 in combination therapy, along with the lack of resistance observed to date, means that R1626 could be an exciting drug for patients with hepatitis C, if a safe and acceptable dosing regimen can be determined in future studies."

Antiviral Activity and Safety Results Being Presented at AASLD

The multicenter Phase IIa study enrolled patients with genotype 1 chronic HCV who have not previously received treatment. The objectives were to evaluate the four-week activity and safety of combining R1626 with PEGASYS alone or R1626 with PEGASYS plus COPEGUS in comparison to PEGASYS/COPEGUS, the standard of care. The study found:

-- Up to 81 percent of those patients treated with R1626 1500 mg (twice-

daily) + PEGASYS + COPEGUS had an undetectable HCV viral load by week

four (mean reduction of 5.2 log10 IU/mL)

-- ALT, a liver enzyme, normalized in approximately 50 percent of patients

in R1626 treatment groups

-- Most reported adverse events were mild to moderate. Dose dependent,

reversible grade four neutropenia was observed in the R1626 arms (36

percent in patients receiving R1626 1500 mg + PEGASYS + COPEGUS), and

was the main reason for dose reduction and discontinuation

Lack of Resistance

According to a second presentation at the conference, resistance to R1626 was not identified following intensive testing for either two weeks of treatment with R1626 as monotherapy, or in patients treated with R1626 for four weeks in combination with the standard of care. These findings suggest that there is a high barrier to the development of resistance to R1626 in vivo.

Start of Phase IIb Trial

R1626 is being progressed into Phase IIb study, called POLI 1, to further investigate the new treatment regimens of R1626, in combination with standard or lower dose of PEGASYS and standard dose of COPEGUS. This Phase IIb trial is now open and enrolling patients in eight countries, including the United States. More information about R1626 and the clinical studies can be found on

"As a clinician, I am excited by the high rates of viral negativity that were observed after four weeks of treatment with R1626 in combination with the standard of care. The design of the Phase IIb study should enable us to find the doses of R1626, PEGASYS and COPEGUS that achieve the appropriate balance between safety and efficacy," said Dr. David Nelson, Director of Hepatology and Liver Transplantation at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and a lead investigator in this Phase IIb study.

About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease of the liver and a leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and the need for liver transplants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 4.1 million Americans (1.6 percent) have been infected with hepatitis C; 3.2 million are chronically infected. The number of new infections per year has declined from an average of 240,000 in the 1980s to about 26,000 in 2004. CDC estimates the number of hepatitis C-related deaths could increase to 38,000 annually by the year 2010, surpassing annual HIV/AIDS deaths.


PEGASYS, in combination with COPEGUS (ribavirin), are indicated for the treatment of adults with chronic hepatitis C who have compensated liver disease and have not previously been treated with interferon alpha. Efficacy has been demonstrated in patients with compensated liver disease and histological evidence of cirrhosis (Child-Pugh class A) and patients with HIV disease that are clinically stable (e.g., antiretroviral therapy not required or receiving stable antiretroviral therapy). In addition, PEGASYS in combination with COPEGUS is the first and only FDA-approved regimen for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in patients coinfected with hepatitis C and HIV. PEGASYS is the only pegylated interferon indicated for the treatment of adult patients with chronic hepatitis B (HBeAg positive and HBeAg negative chronic hepatitis B who have compensated liver disease and evidence of viral replication and liver inflammation).

PEGASYS is dosed at 180mcg as a subcutaneous injection taken once a week. COPEGUS is available as a 200mg tablet, and is administered orally two times a day as a split dose. Roche has backed PEGASYS with the most extensive clinical research program ever undertaken in hepatitis C, with major studies initiated to advance treatment for hepatitis C patients with unmet needs, including patients co-infected with HIV and HCV, African Americans, patients with cirrhosis, and patients who have failed to respond to previous therapy.

Important Safety Information about PEGASYS

PEGASYS, alone or in combination with COPEGUS, is indicated for the treatment of adults with chronic hepatitis C virus infection who have compensated liver disease and have not been previously treated with interferon alpha. Patients in whom efficacy was demonstrated included patients with compensated liver disease and histological evidence of cirrhosis (Child-Pugh class A).

Alpha interferons, including PEGASYS(R) (Peginterferon alfa-2a), 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. Therapy should be withdrawn in patients with persistently severe or worsening signs or symptoms of these conditions. In many, but not all cases, these disorders resolve after stopping PEGASYS therapy (see CONTRAINDICATIONS, WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS and ADVERSE REACTIONS in complete product information).

Use with Ribavirin. Ribavirin, including COPEGUS(R), may cause birth defects and/or death of the fetus. 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 ribavirin therapy may result in a worsening of cardiac disease. Ribavirin is genotoxic and mutagenic and should be considered a potential carcinogen (see CONTRAINDICATIONS, WARNINGS, PRECAUTIONS and ADVERSE REACTIONS in complete product information).

PEGASYS is contraindicated in patients with hypersensitivity to PEGASYS or any of its components, autoimmune hepatitis, and hepatic decompensation (Child-Pugh score greater than 6; class B and C) in cirrhotic CHC monoinfected patients before or during treatment. PEGASYS is also contraindicated in hepatic decompensation with Child-Pugh score greater than or equal to 6 in cirrhotic CHC patients coinfected with HIV before or during treatment. PEGASYS is also contraindicated in neonates and infants because it contains benzyl alcohol. Benzyl alcohol is associated with an increased incidence of neurological and other complications in neonates and infants, which are sometimes fatal. PEGASYS and COPEGUS therapy is additionally contraindicated in patients with a hypersensitivity to COPEGUS or any of its components, in women who are pregnant, men whose female partners are pregnant, and patients with hemoglobinopathies (eg, thalassemia major, sickle-cell anemia).

COPEGUS THERAPY SHOULD NOT BE STARTED UNLESS A REPORT OF A NEGATIVE PREGNANCY TEST HAS BEEN OBTAINED IMMEDIATELY PRIOR TO INITIATION OF THERAPY. Women of childbearing potential and men must use two forms of effective contraception during treatment and during the 6 months after treatment has concluded. Routine monthly pregnancy tests must be performed during this time. If pregnancy should occur during treatment or during 6 months post-therapy, the patient must be advised of the significant teratogenic risk of COPEGUS therapy to the fetus. Healthcare providers and patients are strongly encouraged to immediately report any pregnancy in a patient or partner of a patient during treatment or during 6 months after treatment cessation to the Ribavirin Pregnancy Registry at 1-800-593-2214.

Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) patients with cirrhosis may be at risk of hepatic decompensation and death when treated with alpha interferons, including PEGASYS. During treatment, patients' clinical status and hepatic function should be closely monitored, and PEGASYS treatment should be immediately discontinued if decompensation (Child-Pugh score greater than or equal to 6) is observed.

The most common adverse events reported for PEGASYS and COPEGUS combination therapy observed in clinical trials were fatigue/asthenia (65%), headache (43%), pyrexia (41%), myalgia (40%), irritability/anxiety/nervousness (33%), insomnia (30%), alopecia (28%), neutropenia (27%), nausea/vomiting (25%), rigors (25%), anorexia (24%), injection site reaction (23%), arthralgia (22%), depression (20%), pruritus (19%) and dermatitis (16%).

Serious adverse events in hepatitis C trials included neuropsychiatric disorders (homicidal ideation, suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, suicide, psychotic disorder and hallucinations), serious and severe bacterial infections (sepsis), bone marrow toxicity (cytopenia and rarely, aplastic anemia), cardiovascular disorders (hypertension, supraventricular arrhythmias and myocardial infarction), hypersensitivity (including anaphylaxis), endocrine disorders (including thyroid disorders and diabetes mellitus), autoimmune disorders (including idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, psoriasis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and interstitial nephritis), pulmonary disorders (dyspnea, pneumonia, bronchiolitis obliterans, interstitial pneumonitis and sarcoidosis), colitis (ulcerative and hemorrhagic/ischemic colitis), pancreatitis, and ophthalmologic disorders (decrease or loss of vision, retinopathy including macular edema and retinal thrombosis/hemorrhages, optic neuritis and papilledema). Adverse reactions reported during post-approval use of PEGASYS therapy, with and without ribavirin, include hearing impairment, hearing loss, serious skin reactions, including erythema multiforme major, and infections (bacterial, viral and fungal).

About Roche

Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. (Roche), based in Nutley, N.J., is the U.S. pharmaceuticals headquarters of the Roche Group, one of the world's leading research-oriented healthcare groups with core businesses in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. For more than 100 years in the U.S., Roche has been committed to developing innovative products and services that address prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases, thus enhancing people's health and quality of life. An employer of choice, in 2007 Roche was named Top Company of the Year by Med Ad News and one of the Top 20 Employers (Science magazine). In 2006, Roche was ranked the No. 1 Company to Sell For (Selling Power), and one of AARP's Top Companies for Older Workers, and in 2005, Roche was named one of Fortune magazine's Best Companies to Work For in America. For additional information about the U.S. pharmaceuticals business, visit our websites: or

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