New Hepatitis C Combo Treatment Is a 'Cure' for Many
To lessen the chance that patients would get severe anemia, Manns' study used a relatively low dose of ribavirin. After analyzing the results, the researchers noticed that the people who weighed the least did much better than heavier people. It turned out that pound for pound, they were getting a higher dose of ribavirin. When dosage is adjusted for weight, the study suggests that the overall success rate of the combination treatment can be higher than 60%.
Hepatitis C expert Curt H. Hagedorn, MD, of Atlanta's Emory University, reviewed Manns' study for WebMD. "It does look like this weight adjustment is really important -- it can boost the response rate," he says. "We are adjusting the ribavirin dosage according to the weight of the individual patient."
Doctors still are learning how best to use the new drugs. Patients infected with the easier-to-treat HCV genotypes 2 and 3 are much more likely to respond to the combination treatment, and they need only 24 weeks of the treatment. On the other hand, it is important to identify which people are not going to respond to treatment to spare them the expense and side effects of an expensive and difficult therapy. Hagedorn says that doctors are getting much better at this.
Even for those who do respond, the treatment is tough.
"I got real nauseated. I was tired. I didn't have any reserve energy -- I couldn't even climb a flight of stairs without being exhausted," Fox says of her 48-week treatment. "But when you know there is a chance for a cure, it is worth it. If I had to do it over again, I'd do it. Now I am back at full steam."