Los Angeles Times Examines Study Results of Three Experimental Hepatitis C Treatments
More than 24 hepatitis C treatments currently are in development, and at least three drugs are demonstrating the potential to prevent the virus from replicating, the Los Angeles Times reports. "These drugs are more potent and have much less side effects" than treatments that currently are available, Eugene Schiff, director of the Center for Liver Diseases at the University of Miami, said. One drug, called valopicitabine -- which is manufactured by Cambridge, Mass.-based Idenix Pharmaceuticals and is currently in more advanced clinical trials than other experimental hepatitis C therapies -- works by blocking the action of RNA polymerase, an enzyme the virus needs to replicate. In a study of 79 patients conducted last year, the once-a-day pill reduced hepatitis C viral levels by up to 90% after two weeks of treatment, even though 87% of the trial's participants had received previous treatments that failed to reduce their viral loads. The interim results of another valopicitabine trial -- which involved 190 hepatitis C patients not helped by conventional treatment regimens -- are scheduled to be released in November. Preliminary results of that trial show a decrease in viral reproduction, according to the Times. Nathaniel Brown, chief medical officer at Idenix, said that valopicitabine likely will be part of a combination therapy, "but we're in a race against time because the number of people with advanced disease is steadily increasing." Two other experimental hepatitis C drugs recently have completed early stage clinical trials: SCH-503034, made by Schering-Plough, and VX-950, made by Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex. Both treatments target the protease enzyme, which the virus uses to reproduce. Results from a Shering study on SCH-503034 are expected to be released in November, and Shering liver expert Janice Albrecht said that the decrease in viral levels was "significant." A study conducted this year of VX-950 involving 34 volunteers showed that after two weeks of treatment, the medication proved 250 times as powerful as conventional medication in reducing hepatitis C levels. Researchers are planning additional studies for both drugs (Marsa, Los Angeles Times, 10/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.