Hepatitis C Infections in the U.S.: As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: “With an estimated 3.2 million chronically infected persons nationwide, HCV infection is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States.”
Image Credit: CDC; 2009
An article, by Beth Mole, in Nature News says that a new drug to combat Hepatitis C is near regulatory approval, having sailed through initial Phase III clinical trials.
Sofosbuvir, a new antiviral developed by Gilead Sciences of Foster City, California, is one of several drugs in the pipeline that could replace hepatitis C treatments that incorporate the immune-boosting drug interferon, which can cause harsh side effects including depression, anaemia and severe flu-like symptoms. Up to 170 million people worldwide are infected with blood-borne hepatitis C virus (HCV), including as many as 4 million people in the United States. Long-term exposure to the virus can cause chronic liver disease and cancer. Current therapies that combine the antiviral drug ribavirin and interferon cure up to 75% of those treated, but take as long as a year to do so.
Facing a lengthy drug regimen that can produce debilitating side effects, many patients — who may not develop liver damage for years — delay or refuse treatment. And with the promise of better drugs on the way, some doctors approve waiting.
The two papers published today suggest that the wait for improved hepatitis C treatment regimens may be coming to an end. Researchers led by Ira Jacobson of Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York report that a combination of sofosbuvir and ribavirin cured up to 78% of trial participants infected with two types of HCV — genotypes 2 and 3 — in as few as three months, without the need for interferon. That result is similar to outcomes from earlier phase II trials. Another team, led by Eric Lawitz of the Texas Liver Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, showed that a combination of sofosbuvir, ribavirin and interferon cured up to 90% of patients with HCV genotype 1, the most common variety.The World Health Organization reports that although hepatitis C is found worldwide, “countries with high rates of chronic infection are Egypt (15%), Pakistan (4.8%) and China (3.2%). The main mode of transmission in these countries is attributed to unsafe injections using contaminated equipment.” About 350,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases such as cirrhosis and cancer..
A quicker cure is better than a longer one, notably if its side effects are kept to a minimal; and if this drug can reduce the time by one-third, to as little as a few months, so much better for patients and doctors alike. A long therapy regime, lasting a year, can deter patients from going ahead in the first place. If this drug proves as effective as the initial results show, it will should go a long way to both reducing and curing Hepatitis C.
You can read the rest of the article at [NatureNews]