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New Treatment for Hepatitis C Infection Approved

Olysio may cut down on side effects while achieving good responses in patients, experts say
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 25, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug for chronic hepatitis C infection that some experts hope will cut down on side effects from current therapies.

Hepatitis C infection triggers an inflammation of the liver that can lead to reduced liver function, liver failure and even death over time. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.2 million Americans -- many of them in the "baby boomer" generation -- are infected with the hepatitis C virus.

The new drug, called Olysio (simeprevir), is approved as part of a combination antiviral drug regimen to treat certain classes of adult patients with hepatitis C. These include people who have cirrhosis or other liver disease but whose liver is still functioning, people who haven't been previously treated for their hepatitis infection, or those whose infection has not improved after prior treatment.

The approval of Olysio is promising, one expert said, because it might someday free some patients from having to rely on interferon, which can have difficult side effects.

"The approval of Olysio is the first step toward once daily interferon-free treatment of hepatitis C," said Dr. Douglas Dieterich, director of outpatient hepatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

The FDA's approval was based on the results of six clinical trials that evaluated Olysio in combination with peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin, two other drugs commonly used to treat hepatitis C virus infection.

The three-drug combination was effective in 80 percent of patients who had never been treated for hepatitis C, the study found, compared to 50 percent effectiveness in patients who got an inactive placebo plus peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin.

The three-drug combination was also 79 percent effective in patients who had received prior treatment but had relapsed, compared to 37 percent effectiveness in people who got only the two older drugs, the FDA said.

Olysio is from the protease inhibitor class of drugs, and it works by blocking a key protein the virus needs to reproduce. It's the third such drug approved by the FDA to treat chronic hepatitis C infection. The other two drugs are Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir), both approved in 2011.

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