A new treatment cured hepatitis C infection in more than 90 percent of patients with liver cirrhosis, according to researchers from the UT Medicine San Antonio, the Texas Liver Institute and their colleagues. Historically, hepatitis C cure rates in patients with liver cirrhosis have been lower than 50 percent.
Interferon previously was the only agent to demonstrate influence against hepatitis C, but patients frequently relapsed and the treatment led to numerous side effects.
Hep reports that during hepatitis C virus treatment in which pegylated interferon is needed, the drug is administered by weekly injections, at a much greater quantity than what the body generates naturally, resulting in numerous side effects.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the side effects associated with interferon therapy include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, mild anxiety, depression and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Twelve weeks after the final dose of the new oral therapy, no hepatitis C virus was detected in the bloodstream of 91.8 percent of patients who took the pills for 12 weeks. Among patients who took the pills for 24 weeks, 95.9 percent were virus-free 12 weeks after the last dose.
“These are out-of-the-ballpark response rates, not on the same planet as interferon,” said lead author Dr. Fred Poordad, vice president of the Texas Liver Institute in San Antonio. ”The reason this study is so profound is because interferon is not tolerated nor is it safe in many people with cirrhosis. Many of the patients with cirrhosis in this study were not even eligible to be treated with interferon.”
The study looked at outcomes in 380 patients at 78 sites, including hospitals and centers in Spain, Germany, England, Canada and the U.S.
Researchers are registering patient blood samples for three years after treatment and so far have not found any long-term, late relapses.
“Patients with advanced liver disease can now be cured of their hepatitis with a very well-tolerated and short regimen,” Dr. Poordad concluded.
The study’s findings are described in greater detail in The New England Journal of Medicine.