San Antonio Express-News (01.08.13)
Drs. Fred Poordad and. Eric Lawitz, liver specialists and professors at the University of Texas Health Science Center, evaluated a new drug combination to determine whether the hepatitis C virus could be cured quickly and without the adverse effects of current treatment using interferon. At present, standard treatment requires 48 weekly interferon injections to stimulate part of the immune system to fight the virus (but with the adverse effect of depressing other parts), combined with other drugs taken daily in pill form. According to Poordad, interferon causes many side effects, including flu-like symptoms, headaches, nausea, depression, and thyroid gland damage. As a result, some patients who have heard about interferon’s side effects do not get treated.
The researchers used two investigational drugs, ABT-450 and ABT-333, by Abbott Laboratories, which funded the study. Poordad explained that the investigational drugs are antiviral agents that stop the virus from replicating. For 12 weeks, the researchers treated 50 South Texas patients with pills containing the two investigational drugs and the currently used antiviral drug ribavirin and the drug ritonavir. The study reports that the new drug cocktail boosted the cure rate of certain patients from 70 percent to 95 percent in a quarter of the previous treatment’s time. Between 93 and 95 percent of patients who had not been treated previously were considered cured when evaluated after the treatment. Of the patients who had been unsuccessfully treated before, 47 percent were considered cured. The side effects of the new treatment were mild but included fatigue, nausea, headache, dizziness, insomnia, itching, rash, and vomiting.
The study, “Exploratory Study of Oral Combination Antiviral Therapy for Hepatitis C,” was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2013; 368:45-53).