Drug Companies Developing Hepatitis C Medicines for People Who Do Not Respond to Interferon Therapy
Drug company representatives and researchers attending the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases' recent conference in Boston presented data on current and emerging treatments for hepatitis C virus, particularly those who do not respond to traditional treatment, Investor's Business Daily reports. According to CDC, 3.9 million U.S. residents are infected with HCV, and the disease leads to between 10,000 and 12,000 deaths annually from liver failure. Currently, the most common treatment -- pegylated interferon administered with ribavirin -- boosts patients' immune systems but does not directly attack HCV. Normally, patients take interferon three times daily for 48 weeks, and physicians monitor the patients for an additional 24 weeks. If the patient shows no sign of the virus after that time, they are considered to be cured. However, the treatment only is effective for about half of the people who take it, according to Investor's Business Daily. Therefore, the number of people suffering from "chronic" HCV infection is growing, representing a "growth market," according to Dan Welch, CEO of InterMune, a biotech company that is working on developing a drug to treat nonresponders, Investor's Business Daily reports. Welch said that the "poor response rate" for interferon gives smaller biotech companies an opportunity to develop new drugs, according to Investor's Business Daily. Both large and small biotech companies believe that the "hot area" of HCV treatment research is studying whether protease inhibitors -- which are now used to treat HIV -- could be effective in treating HCV, according to Investor's Business Daily (Reeves, Investor's Business Daily, 11/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.