New Hepatitis C Treatment Looks Promising
A form of interferon -- the gold standard for treating hepatitis C infection -- may offer hope for the nearly three million U.S. patients suffering from the chronic, potentially liver-destroying disease.
WebMD News Archive
As in the first study, these researchers were hoping to find
undetectable amounts of virus in the blood. In this study, they also looked at
several patients' liver cells. All treatments were equally well tolerated.
Again, more patients taking peginterferon than taking standard
interferon had reduced virus counts in their blood. What's more, their liver
cells also looked significantly better.
Schafer and co-editorialist Michael F. Sorrell, MD, call the
results of both studies "encouraging," noting that even patients with
no decrease in the amount of virus in the blood may still have less liver
damage with either interferon or peginterferon.
Another significant benefit of these drugs, Schafer tells
WebMD, is that "even if you don't respond, there's evidence that it
decreases your chances of getting a certain type of liver cancer --
hepatocellular carcinoma -- that is believed to be a long-term effect of
hepatitis C infection."
They caution, however, that peginterferon may not benefit all
patients. Even this improved formulation may be insufficient against the
highly-interferon resistant genotype 1 hepatitis C strain carried by about 75%
of infected patients in the U.S. In both studies, the response rate was much
lower for those with this resistant strain than it was for those with other
strains of the virus.
Also, Schafer tells WebMD, more research is needed to determine
whether black patients, who were underrepresented in these studies despite
comprising a large proportion of those with hepatitis C, will have a similar
rate of response as other racial and ethnic groups.
Peginterferon is not yet on the market, but FDA approval is