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Hepatitis C Drug Promising

Vertex Pharmaceuticals has developed a drug that in clinical trials, works as a hepatitis C cure that works in half the time of traditional therapies. 

The drug, telaprivar, works by attacking viral enzymes, a treatment method that has worked well for HIV and AIDS patients.  Acting as a protease inhibitor, the drug blocks the reproduction of the hepatitis C virus within human cells.

Hepatitis C treatment up to this point has been anything but pleasant:  it typically takes one year, and causes extreme discomfort and fatigue.  It’s so laborious that many patients drop out before completing their course of therapy; the flu like symptoms and depression can be severe.

In the above mentioned clinical trial, those Hepatitis C patients who took telaprivar, along with interferon and ribavirin, were treated for only 24 weeks.  75% of them were essentially cured, while only 44% of patients who took interferon and ribavirin alone were hepatitis free.  Side effects of the drug were fatigue, itching and a rash.

According to a report issued by the Institute of Medicine, 3.9 million Americans have it, and 12,000 perish from the illness every year.  Despite its prevalence, it is somewhat minimized (New York Times). Since it’s transmitted through the blood, many hepatitis C patients are either former intravenous blood users, or blood transfusion recipients.  While the disease itself is arduous, its complications can be devastating.  Many hepatitis C patients go on to develop cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, both of which are usually fatal.

While the success of this hepatitis C cure is promising, two more clinical trials are forthcoming.  If successful, Vertex will then apply to the Food and Drug Administration for permission to market the drug.