Hepatis C drugs in the pipeline
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More new drugs to help the nation's more than 3 million hepatitis C patients will be coming out of clinical trials very soon, according to area hepatology specialists.
"This is the future," said Kapil Chopra, director, UPMC Center for Liver Diseases.
"There are several newer therapies in the pipelines which are waiting. Some have had phase 1 and phase 2 studies; some have completed phase 1 and phase 2 studies or have completed 1 and gone on to 2. It's fair to say that in the next three to five years we will see several newer antiviral agents available for people ... in the U.S."
Michael Babich, program director of gastroenterology and hepatology at West Penn Allegheny Health System, agrees.
"I'm very optimistic that further improvements in hepatitis C treatment are not too far distant," he said. "I'm cautiously optimistic that I will have even better options for patients in two to three years."
Dr. Babich recently attended a meeting for the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and saw data presented on "numerous agents under development."
"The variety and mechanism of action of these new drugs will literally explode over the next two to 10 years, and while all of the data presented were relatively early phase studies, there is a lot of reason to be hopeful in the future that treatment will get better," he said.
"I foresee that before too long we may see cure rates in the rate of 90 percent or better. I can foresee agents that are easier to use, with fewer pills taken less often and associated with fewer side effects."
Both he and Dr. Chopra believe the new drugs eventually will allow elimination of interferon, which is the cause of most of the side effects of hepatitis C treatment, but Dr. Babich suspects this may still take five or more years to become a standard available option. It also would make treatment all oral therapy because interferon is given by an injection under the skin.
The UPMC Center for Liver Diseases will be a site for clinical trials of some of the new hepatitis C drugs now being tested, Dr. Chopra said. For more information, call the center at 1-800-447-1651.
Dr. Babich said WPAHS would be available if asked to participate in any trials.
First Published January 9, 2012 12:00 am