Only five years ago, the medications prescribed to treat Hepatitis C were analogous to spinning the roulette wheel. The odds of eliminating the Hepatitis C virus used to hover around 50 percent; however, new drug combinations have dramatically increased the likelihood of viral elimination. Every fiscal period, the pharmaceutical industry is determined to one-up their competitor’s Hepatitis C offerings – and the length of time required for successful treatment might help determine the victor.
The evolution of Hepatitis C treatment is moving forward quickly, in several different realms. Thanks to new, antiviral drug combinations:
- the percentage of people able to eliminate the Hepatitis C virus from their body has skyrocketed from about 50 percent to 90 percent or more.
- Hepatitis C therapy’s side effects are less of an issue, as the newer drugs are associated with far less severe adverse effects.
- oral formulations have reduced the need for drug injections.
- regimens can be completed faster.
As evidenced by the protocol in the newest Hepatitis C cocktails, and confirmed by a poster presentation at the most recent European Association of the Study of the Liver (EASL) meeting, the amount of time needed to complete a successful drug regimen keeps getting shorter.
- For over a decade, the Hepatitis C standard of care consisted of treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. Although not its only drawback, the duration of this treatment was considered grueling – lasting from six months to a year or more.
- Approved in 2011, Incivek and Victrelis were the next generation of Hepatitis C antiviral medications. While adding one of these drugs improved the treatment success rate, their duration of treatment also spanned between six months and a year.
- In 2013 and 2014, another generation of direct-acting antiviral medications were approved. Changing the odds of Hepatitis C treatment success to the 90th percentile, these drugs are today’s favorites and include Olysio, Sovaldi, Harvoni and Viekira Pak. Besides increasing the Hepatitis C cure rate, the new drug regimens are much shorter – spanning an average of just three months.
Although very expensive, the new, interferon-free direct-acting antiviral regimens taken for three months can cure a majority of people with Hepatitis C genotype 1 (the most common type in the U.S.). Nonetheless, researchers are working to develop new drugs requiring a shorter duration of treatment. The shorter duration is favorable because it is more convenient, will improve treatment adherence and can potentially lower treatment cost.
According to research by Edward Gane from Auckland Clinical Studies in New Zealand and colleagues, a Gilead triple drug combination appears to have cut the treatment duration in half.
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