Monday, May 4, 2009

Telaprevir Chronic Hepatitis C Infection

I read a news report the other day about a potential advance in the treatment of hepatitis C. Telaprevir is a new experimental drug that may decrease the number of people who develop severe complications from chronic hepatitis C infection.

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral induced liver disease that affects approximately 3 million Americans and over 170 million people worldwide. It is the most common blood borne infection in the United States. It is transmitted from person to person by contact with the infected individual's blood such as sharing dirty needles, blood transfusions before hepatitis C was recognized, needle sticks, and any blood to blod contact with sexual activity. It is a slowly developing disease and most people who have it do not know they are affected as it might be years before symptoms develop. It is a chronic infection in that the virus continues to live and cause liver damage. It is a potentially fatal disease as those with chronic hepatitic C infection are highly likely to develop liver cancer or liver scarring leading to cirrhosis. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The only treatment available has been peginteferon and ribavarin administered for 24 - 48 weeks. Peginteferon and ribivarin helps the immune system fight off the virus which in about half the cases leads to eradication of the virus as measured by loss of serum HCV virus RNA. But less than half of all patients respond and continued treatment in those in whom it is not eradicated initially does not affect the outcome. So better treatments are needed.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is in process of testing the new drug telaprevir which is suppossed to directly attack the virus. Initial studies show that telaprevir is effective in about 65% of patients who take it along with standard treatment for one year. This is a considerable advance but like many treatments is associated with some significant side effects and many patients quit taking the drug primarily because of rashes and gastrointestinal complaints. So at least there is a new option for treatment, telaprivir, which may be available soon and help save the lives of a number of people with chronic hepatitis C infection who are not helped by current treatment but as in most areas of medicine more research and other possibilites are needed.

Thought for the day

"Which one of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?"

Jesus of Nazareth

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