Skip to content

    Hepatitis Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    3-Drug Combo May Treat Hepatitis C

    Studies Show Boceprevir or Telaprevir Help Patients When Added to Standard Treatment

    How the Drug Combo Works

    About 3 million Americans are infected with HCV, and the CDC says more than 12,000 people in the U.S. die each year of liver disease and liver cancer caused by the virus. It is also the leading cause of liver transplants.

    Most people show no symptoms of infection with hepatitis C for years, or even decades. Because of this, few people even know they are infected until they develop liver disease or have significant liver scarring, known as cirrhosis.

    The two new drugs directly attack and suppress the virus by inhibiting the HCV protease enzyme, in a similar way that other protease inhibitors inhibit the HIV virus.

    Because viruses quickly develop resistance to these drugs when given alone, they typically are not used alone.

    That is why the three-drug cocktail will be needed, even though patients often find the flu-like symptoms and other side effects associated with peginterferon difficult to tolerate.

    The two new drugs have proven to have a common side effect of their own: anemia.

    In the newly published boceprevir studies, more than 40% of patients required the costly drug erythropoietin to boost red blood cell production.

    “This is a very expensive drug, and I would imagine some insurance companies would not pay for it,” Hensen says. He says it remains to be seen if patients will stay on the three-drug regimen if they don’t have access to erythropoietin.

    Experimental Drugs on the Horizon

    The Holy Grail of HCV treatment is oral medications that clear the virus without major side effects.

    Hensen says early trials of several candidates appear promising and treatment without peginterferon may be a reality within two or three years.

    Bacon says the time frame may be closer to five or even 10 years.

    An FDA advisory committee is scheduled to meet April 27 to consider recommending approval of boceprevir. The panel will consider Vertex’s application for telaprevir the next day.

    Merck spokesman Robert Consalvo says the company hopes to have boceprevir on the market by this summer.

    “We are working actively to prepare for the launch of this drug, and will do so very quickly once it is approved by FDA,” he tells WebMD.

    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    Hepatitus C virus
    Types, symptoms and treatments.
    liver illustration
    Myths and facts about this essential organ.
     
    woman eating apple
    What you need to know.
    doctor and patient
    What causes it?
     
    Hepatitis C Treatment
    Article
    Syringes and graph illustration
    Tool
     
    liver illustration
    Quiz
    passport, pills and vaccine
    Slideshow
     
    Scientist looking in microscope
    Slideshow
    Fatty Liver Disease
    Article
     
    Digestive Diseases Liver Transplantation
    Article
    Picture Of The Liver
    Image Collection