A new drug combination has cured 70 percent of the patients it is administered to in early stage hepatitis C clinical trials. With the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, these results offer renewed hope for an answer to a chronic disease that millions have yet to be diagnosed with.
The results from this phase II clinical trial have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Medical researchers are still testing the effectiveness and tolerability of an experimental drug, sofosbuvir, which is to be taken in combination with the antiviral drug, ribavirin, to treat people with chronic hepatitis C.
A Step Above Contemporary Treatments for Hepatitis C
These new drugs are taken orally, which is a significant improvement over many contemporary treatments which require weekly injections with interferon-alpha. Also, those drugs have become notorious for causing various adverse side effects such as depression, anemia, and other flu-like symptoms.
For this clinical study, ten patients who had developed early to moderate liver disease were given 400 milligrams of sofosbuvir and weight-based doses of ribavirin each day for six months. The nine participants who completed the full treatment regimen had zero detectable viral activity a full 12 weeks after therapy had ended. In fact, there was still no detectable hepatitis C activity at the 24 week post-study check-in.
(Under current medical standards, a patient can be considered cured of their hepatitis C if there has been no detectable viral activity for at least 12 weeks following the end of their prescribed therapy.)
Treating Patients with Genotype-1 HCV
A second study group consisting of 50 people were split up into two groups in order to test the effectiveness of low fixed doses of sofosbuvir versus weight-based doses. The medical researchers saw some very encouraging results in this second study group, with nearly a 70 percent overall cure rate utilizing a interferon-free treatment regimen. All of the participants in this clinical study had genotype-1 HCV, but the level of liver disease did vary. Most of the participants had been African American men.
Following this hepatitis C clinical trial, the research team determined the prescribed combination therapy to be both safe and well tolerated by their subjects. Observed side effects of this regimen included fatigue, anemia, nausea, and mild to moderate headaches.
The Deadly Effects of Chronic Hepatitis
Hepatitis C can be contracted through direct contact with contaminated blood. According to the CDC’s best estimates, there are millions of people who are living with this disease without realizing it. Chronic hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer, and it kills nearly 15,000 Americans every year.
It is easy to see why there is such a demand for a better way to treat hepatitis C. There are already millions who have been diagnosed, and this number is expected to grow significantly over the next several years as more people are diagnosed. With a treatment regimen that is less burdensome to the patient, it could drastically improve their quality of life.