Skip to content

    Hepatitis Health Center

    Font Size

    Experimental Hepatitis C Drug Offers New Hope

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

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Dennis Thompson

    HealthDay Reporter

    TUESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- A new combination pill could provide hope for hepatitis C patients who can't take or don't respond to currently available treatments, researchers say.

    The pill combines two investigational drugs, sofosbuvir and ledipasvir, and in clinical trials it eliminated the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in nearly all patients who took it, according to findings published online Nov. 5 in The Lancet.

    "Ninety-five percent of patients new to hepatitis C virus therapy who took eight weeks of the sofosbuvir/ledipasvir combination tablet were HCV undetectable 24 weeks after therapy ended, which means they are cured of HCV," said lead author Dr. Eric Lawitz, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "Similarly, among patients who had received prior therapy and took 12 weeks of sofosbuvir/ledipasvir, 95 percent were cured."

    Hepatitis C, if left untreated, can cause severe and potentially fatal liver damage. However, most people recently infected with hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Instead, the virus causes long-term damage, mainly scarring of the liver, a condition called cirrhosis.

    Combination drug treatments currently are available for the most prevalent form of the virus, which affects about 75 percent of Americans with the disease, Lawitz said. But these combination treatments involve interferon and protease inhibitors, which can have terrible side effects. The therapy also requires a complicated drug regimen of pills and injections.

    Fewer than half of hepatitis C patients can undergo the existing combination therapy, given the drugs' interactions and side effects, the authors said in background information. For those patients, there are no treatment options at present.

    "We've had nothing to offer them," said Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. "It's painted a rather bleak picture for these patients."

    Sofosbuvir and ledipasvir are targeted, direct-acting agents that interfere directly with the life cycle of the hepatitis C virus, Lawitz said.

    Researchers combined the two drugs into a single tablet taken once a day. They recruited 100 hepatitis C patients to try the medication, including 60 who had never received treatment and 40 who had been unsuccessfully treated using the current therapy. Some patients also received ribavirin, currently a standard treatment, in addition to the combination pill.

    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
    Syringes and graph illustration
    liver illustration
    passport, pills and vaccine
    Scientist looking in microscope
    Fatty Liver Disease
    Digestive Diseases Liver Transplantation
    Picture Of The Liver
    Image Collection