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New Drug Cures Hard-to-Treat Hepatitis C

3-Drug Treatment Coming Soon, Expert Says
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Half of HCV Patients Cured continued...

The researchers report that:

  • Just over half (52%) of telaprevir-treated patients were free of virus six months after therapy ended, compared to just 14% of those who did not take telaprevir. 
  • Patients who had responded to initial treatment, but later relapsed, did best on the three-drug regimen, with about three out of four achieving a cure the second time around. 
  • Slightly less than 40% of previous non-responders who got the triple therapy responded, compared to just 8% of those treated with standard therapy without telaprevir. 
  • Responses were better with the three-drug regimen than with peginterferon and telaprevir alone, suggesting that ribavirin is an important component of effective treatment. 
  • Responses were similar with 24 and 48 weeks of treatment in patients on the triple-drug regimen, but fewer side effects were reported with the shorter treatment.

Anemia and rash were the two most commonly reported side effects with the investigational drug.

More than three times as many patients in the telaprevir groups left the study because of troubling side effects. In all, 15% abandoned treatment compared to 4% of patients treated with peginterferon and ribavirin alone.

‘We had hoped adding (telaprevir) would not add to the side effect profile, but it is now clear there are more side effects with three drugs than two,” McHutchison tells WebMD. “I guess it’s true there is no free ride.”

Telaprevir’s manufacturer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals funded the study. McHutchison says he has received speaker and advisory fees from the company but has no other financial interest in the drug.

Shorter Treatment, Better Outcomes

In a study of previously untreated patients published last spring, McHutchison and colleagues reported better cure rates with half as much standard treatment when telaprevir was added.

A total of 41% of patients treated with 48 weeks of peginterferon and ribavirin achieved cures, compared to 61% of patients treated with 12 weeks of telaprevir and 24 weeks of peginterferon/ribavirin.

Bacon says slightly higher cure rates have been reported with the other investigational protease inhibitor boceprevir, but that these studies included 48 weeks of treatment.

“It may come down to patient preference,” he says. “Will patients give up a shorter treatment course for a higher cure rate? I know many of my patients would.”

Results from the phase III studies of telaprevir and boceprevir are expected later this year.

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