New experimental drugs designed to cure the hepatitis C virus (HCV) are showing remarkable success rates. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim reported that its new anti-HCV drug combination showed modest results when compared to competing drugs.
HCV affects 170 million people globally and is the leading cause of chronic liver disease and liver transplants. In the United States, 3 million have HCV, causing 12,000 deaths per year. Up to 3 in 4 people who are infected don't know it. Anyone born from 1945 through 1965, should get tested for HCV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The current treatments for HCV are far from ideal. They require an injectable drug called interferon and a pill called ribavirin. The main problem with interferon is flu-like symptoms and severe depression. Ribavirin has two problems. The first is anemia, which is when an important type of red blood cell falls to unhealthy levels. The second problem with ribavirin is its potential to harm unborn children.
The good news is that several pharmaceutical companies have promising drugs expected to become available as soon as December of 2013. When these new drugs are combined, they can quickly and permanently wipe out HCV. This is called sustained virologic response, or in doctor lingo SVR.
Sustained virologic response (SVR) is when virus levels fall below detection. In patient lingo, that’s called undetectable. If you stop treatment, and you continue being undetectable for life, you’re cured.
New HCV drugs haven’t been around long to say that they qualify as a cure. Time will tell. Meanwhile, here's road map to a cure:
- SVR for 4 weeks, wait and see
- SVR for 8 weeks, good sign for continued testing in clinical trials
- SVR for 12 weeks, a great benchmark to evaluate new drugs
- SVR for six months, a very good sign that you’ll continue to stay undetectable
- SVR for the rest of your life, that’s a cure
The goal then is to mix and match new HCV drugs—with as little interferon and ribavirin as possible—to achieve lifelong SVR.
In the latest study, Boehringer Ingelheim reported the following results:
- 12 weeks after treatment with faldaprevir plus deleobuvir plus ribavirin, SVR was 69%
In an earlier study, Boehringer Ingelheim reported the following results:
- 12 weeks after treatment with faldaprevir plus interferon plus ribavirin, SVR was 79%
In contrast, an earlier study by Gilead Sciences reported the following results:
- 12 weeks after treatment with sofosbuvir plus interferon plus ribavirin, SVR was 89%
In addition, another study by Gilead reported the following results:
- 8 weeks after treatment with sofosbuvir plus ledipasvir, SVR was 95%
- 8 weeks after treatment sofosbuvir plus ledipasvir plus ribavirin, SVR was 100%
Another company, Janssen, reported the following study results:
- 12 weeks after treatment with simeprevir plus interferon plus ribavirin, SVR was 80%
- 12 weeks after treatment after simeprevir plus sofosbuvir, SVR was 100%
For more information about current and experiment hepatitis C drugs, visit the following CDC website.