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Experimental Hepatitis C Drug Offers New Hope

Combination medication cured nearly all study participants, without serious side effects

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About half of the patients had at least one health problem during the study, with the highest rates seen among patients who took ribavirin. The most common side effects were nausea, anemia, upper respiratory tract infection and headache. The treating physician rated most of them as mild, and no one had to discontinue treatment because of side effects.

The treatment of hepatitis C is rapidly changing, Lawitz said. "We are moving from an era of injectable medications with significant toxicity to an era of all-oral combination pill therapy that provides the promise of being well-tolerated with very high rates of cure," he said.

The combination drug is still being evaluated in phase 3 clinical studies, so it is too soon to tell if it will receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval or how it would be priced, Lawitz said.

Because hepatitis C progresses without symptoms, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults born from 1945 through 1965 get tested for the virus.

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