FDA Approves Once-A-Week Peg-Intron Therapy for Hepatitis C
The FDA yesterday approved for hepatitis C treatment the once-a-week drug Peg-Intron, a new version of the "longtime" hepatitis treatment interferon-alpha that is made with new "pegylation" technology, which "cloaks it from the immune system so it stays active longer," the AP/Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports. Manufacturer Schering-Plough Corp. said that the weekly injections are "twice as effective" as regular interferon, taken three times a week. Schering also manufactures the "top" hepatitis C treatment Rebetron, a combination therapy of interferon and Ribavirin. Some studies suggest Rebetron may be more effective than Peg-Intron, but FDA hepatitis chief Dr. Bill Schwieterman said that Peg-Intron may cause fewer side effects because Ribavirin "raises risks of hemolytic anemia, heart dysfunction and other effects." However, patients taking Peg-Intron are one and a half times more likely to have "mild bone marrow suppression," Schwieterman added, something that the FDA "suggested doctors monitor." Peg-Intron will be available next month for a wholesale cost of $962 to $1,114 a month, cheaper than Rebetron, which has a wholesale cost of $1,560 a month (AP/Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 1/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.