PHILADELPHIA — Researchers at Penn Medicine,
in collaboration with a multi-center international team, have shown
that a protease inhibitor, simeprevir, a once a day pill, along with
interferon and ribavirin has proven as effective in treating chronic
Hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) as telaprevir with interferon and
ribavirin, the standard of care in developing countries. Further,
simeprevir proved to be simpler for patients and had fewer adverse
events. The complete study is now available online and is scheduled to
publish in January 2015 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
“The observations from the study present simeprevir,
peginterferon and ribavirin as a good therapeutic option for regions of
the world where all-oral therapies are unavailable or cost prohibitive,”
says Rajender Reddy, MD, professor of Medicine and director of
Hepatology the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of
Pennsylvania. “This is the only study we are aware of that directly
compares telaprevir to simeprevir.” Telaprevir, another protease
inhibitor, is an oral HCV medication taken up to three times daily, has
multiple side effects and is less accessible than simeprevir. Simeprevir
is manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
In the U.S. and other countries where access to the latest research
and treatment for HCV is available, physicians have moved towards
all-oral therapy and away from interferon-based therapies such as these,
as they are known to come with a significant number of side effects and
are not as effective.
Dara Gantly on the pressure to provide full access to powerful new treatments.
It is not often we hear the word ‘cure’ mentioned in the development
of a new class of drug, but the direct-acting antiviral (DAAs) agents
for people with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have that exact potential.
Indeed, this revolution in treatment could mean the ‘eradication’ for
the condition. The only barrier to achieving this will be the ability to
access and afford these new therapies. The ‘US$1,000 pill’ tagline has,
as you might expect, caused quite a stir among healthcare funders and
media alike, with some experts describing the costs of the drugs “as
breathtaking as their effectiveness”.
From the standard treatment for chronic HCV genotype 1 with
ribavirin, pegylated interferon and a protease inhibitor — which could
involve 18 tablets a day, last a year, have a limited response rate and
cause severe side-effects — patients with HCV are now being presented
with three months or less of oral medications that are offering a 90 to
95 per cent ‘cure’ rate, with experts talking about the eradication of
hepatitis C over the next decade.