By Veronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis, MO – An international study suggests that a new drug may provide hope for hepatitis C patients who don't respond to existing medications.
The current treatment for hepatitis C -- a difficult six-to-twelve-month course of two medications -- cures only about 50 percent of patients.
Saint Louis University professor of internal medicine Dr. Adrian Di Bisceglie helped test the effects of a new drug, telaprevir, on patients who either didn't respond to existing medications at all, or relapsed after treatment.
Of the patients in the group that had initially relapsed, 70 percent fully recovered with the new three-drug combination, says Di Bisceglie. "And then if you look at the most difficult group of all to treat -- those who when they were previously treated had almost no change in the level of their virus -- their response rate there was about 40 percent, compared to less than 10 percent in the control group."
Dr. Di Besceglie says that if subsequent trials are equally successful, telaprevir is on track to be FDA approved in the next 12 to 18 months.
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that attacks the liver, potentially causing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
In the U.S., 10,000 - 12,000 people die from complications of the disease each year -- more than die from HIV/AIDS.