Austrian researchers have found that a new combination therapy allows them to treat patients with chronic hepatitis C less aggressively than using current therapies. The new regimen appears at least equally efficient.
In a study involving 419 test subjects, scientists used a combination therapy made up of the protease inhibitor ABT-450r, the NS5A inhibitor Ombitasvir, and the non-nucleoside polymerase inhibitor Dasubavir, according to ScienceDaily. The team, led by Peter Ferenci from the University Department of Internal Medicine III at the MedUni Vienna, published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The three types — A, B, and C — are each caused by different viruses. While vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis A and B, none currently exists for hepatitis C. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 3.2 million U.S. residents have chronic hepatitis C infections. Many are unaware they suffer from this disorder because they have no apparent symptoms and eventually discover by chance that they have it.
Among hepatitis C patients, between 75 and 85 percent develop chronic infections. The illness, which is contagious, is typically spread through direct contact with contaminated blood. Experts consider transmission of the virus in the course of everyday activities like hugging, breastfeeding, coughing, or sneezing an impossibility. The disease is not spread via food or water.
Cedars-Sinai says that using current therapies, more than half the patients with hepatitis C can be cured. Treatment response depends on a number of factors such as its strain, viral load, and amount of liver scarring. Other considerations include the patient’s weight, age, and gender.
The Vienna study showed the new combination therapy yielded significantly higher cure rates than the prior administration of Ribavarin and interferon, primarily used with a protease inhibitor. The older treatment resulted in quite a few side effects. After 12 weeks, the new combination achieved a nearly 100 percent cure rate without any side effects.
With the new treatment, patients take two tablets each morning plus one at night. Because it excludes interferon, the aggressive treatment required with Ribavarin and the accompanying side effects is unnecessary.
Members of the Vienna team view the new combination therapy as a huge breakthrough in treating hepatitis C, one that should provide a major improvement in quality of life for the patients who eventually receive it.
Vonda J. Sines has published thousands of print and online health and medical articles. She specializes in diseases and other conditions that affect the quality of life.