Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Anti-Viral Drug Shows Promise for Dramatic Improvement in Hepatitis C Treatment

Research team, led by Paul Kwo, M.D., of Indiana University School of Medicine, reported that adding the drug boceprevir, nearly doubled the treatment's effectiveness when given for 48 weeks in one treatment arm of the study. We knew that, Boceprevir (see structure) is a protease inhibitor being studied as a treatment for hepatitis C. It was being developed by Schering-Plough and has since been absorbed into the Merck's new pipeline since its acquired Schering in 2009. As of 2008, it is in phase II clinical trials (SPRINT-1 trial). Researchers claim that, adding a direct acting anti-viral drug to the standard treatment regimen for hepatitis C significantly increases the cure rate in the most difficult to treat patients.
Researchers claim that, the drug boceprevir increased the cure rate to as high as 75 percent in those who received 48 weeks of the three-drug combination therapy, compared to 38 percent of those in the control group, who received the standard two-drug treatment (peginterferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin)   for 48 weeks, said Dr. Kwo, associate professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine. The two-year phase 2 trial was conducted at 67 sites with 520 patients in the US, Canada and Europe.
In the boceprevir study, known as the SPRINT-1 trial, researchers tested several different options to evaluate the effectiveness of the combination therapy.
"Both 28- and 48-week boceprevir regimens significantly increased sustained virologic response rates  which is the best definition of a cure we have  compared to the 48 week control," said Dr. Kwo. "The 48-week treatment arm with 4 weeks of peg interferon lead-in and 44 weeks of peg interferon, ribavirin, and boceprevir led to the largest improvement over the control group ever reported. That's very impressive." 

Researchers conclude that, best results were reported for the 103 patients who were treated for four weeks with the standard two drug regiment, followed by 44 weeks of the three-drug regimen including boceprevir: 75 percent of these patients tested negative for evidence of the virus six months after the end of treatment.

As per the lead researcher, Dr. Kwo, based on this phase 2 study, it appears that if this drug receives final approval approximately two-thirds of patients will be able to be treated successfully with 28 weeks of treatment and one-third will need 48 weeks of treatment, though this will require confirmation from the phase 3 trials, from which preliminary results were recently released.

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