(RxWiki News) For people with hepatitis C, three isn't a crowd. These patients got well much faster with the addition of a third medication.
A new study that added a third medication to the standard two-medication oral treatment significantly cut hepatitis C patients' healing time. This new treatment was also well-tolerated and less toxic to the patients than past therapies.
“Although our study is small, we showed high rates of sustained viral response at 12 weeks with use of regimens given for only 6 weeks, which supports the possibility that a short, 6 week treatment duration might be effective for some patients,” wrote the authors of this study, led by Shyam Kottilil, MD, PhD, formerly of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
The research team also included authors from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Hepatitis C is an infectious viral disease that attacks the liver. It is spread by contact with an infected patient’s blood or body fluids.
Around 75 to 85 percent of patients with acute hepatitis C go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although some people with hepatitis C have no symptoms and feel well, the virus can eventually cause liver damage and may cause liver cancer.
The CDC reports that about 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C. Until 2013, hepatitis C treatment required injectable medications and typically lasted one year.
One problem with current hepatitis C therapies is adherence, Dr. Kottilil and team noted. Patients must take all of their medications every day for three months. Newer oral medications have shortened treatment times, but researchers have continued to look for ways to improve treatment.
Dr. Kottilil and team were among those researchers. For their study, they gave patients three different medications for six weeks. These were sofosbuvir (trade name Sovaldi), ledipasvir and an experimental treatment named GS-9669 or one named GS-9451. A third group of 20 volunteers took only sofosbuvir and ledipasvir but took them for 12 weeks.
Of the 40 patients in the trials with either experimental medicine and the two standard medications, 38 were cured at the end of the six-week period.
Most hepatitis C therapy lasts 12 weeks — this new medication combo cut that time in half.
Although hepatitis C is an infectious disease, patients can protect themselves. Practice safe sex and don't share needles or personal care items like razors.
This study was published Jan. 12 in The Lancet.
This research was funded by the NIAID, the NCI, the Clinical Center Intramural Program, the German Research Foundation, the NIH and Gilead Sciences. Some members of the research team worked for Gilead Sciences. Others were on the Gilead board or on the boards of Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck, which make medications used in hepatitis C treatment.