Since World Hepatitis Day was first started in 2008, physicians and health care organizations alike have taken the time to focus on patients living with hepatitis B and C and raise awareness about disease prevention and treatment. On this year’s date July 28th physicians have a special reason to celebrate World Hepatitis Day – new drugs that experts hope will make great strides in the treatment and eradication of hepatitis C.
Experts are saying that two new drugs will transform the treatment of hepatitis C (HCV), the most common chronic blood borne viral infection in the US. The addition of boceprevir and telaprevir to the current treatment of chronic HCV represents a significant advance in the medical community’s ability to help patients with this chronic liver disease.
In clinical studies, boceprevir and telaprevir, known as direct-acting antiviral therapies (DAAs), proved to be startlingly effective at curing many hepatitis C patients by blocking a key enzyme that the hepatitis C virus needs to replicate and spread. “For the first time in 20 years, we’ll be able to cure more hepatitis C patients than we’re not curing,” says Mitchell L. Shiffman, MD, medical director of the Liver Institute of Virginia.
Boceprevir and telaprevir will be effective not only in HCV patients who have not been previously treated, but in patients who have failed to be cured during a previous course of peginterferon and ribavirin. Of greatest importance is that the vast majority of patients will be able to achieve high cure rates. Without protease inhibitors, re-treated patients are only cured 20% of the time. With the new drugs, most cases exceed a 70% cure rate, even though the duration of therapy is reduced form by 5 months – from 48 to 28 weeks.
Although boceprevir and telaprevir are great advances and will help many of our patients, the development of these drugs is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to treating liver diseases. At least 10 other anti-viral agents like boceprevir and telaprevir are currently being tested by several pharmaceutical companies.
Many of these new medications are being evaluated by Dr. Shiffman and his staff at the Liver Institute of Virginia and many patients may be eligible and wish to be treated in clinical trials with these new medications. Dr Shiffman is one of the world’s key opinion leaders on how to best treat chronic HCV and his program at the Liver Institute is the only program in Virginia able to treat and cure chronic HCV with only anti-viral agents.