(RxWiki News) Hepatitis C patients may soon have another medication option.
A new study found that grazoprevir/elbasvir taken once a day was effective in fighting the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Researchers called the treatment a “potent new therapeutic option for chronic HCV infection.”
Tom Schnorr, RPh, CCN, owner of Apothecary Shop Pharmacy and Austin Compounding Pharmacy in Austin, TX, reminded patients that while this may be an exciting treatment option, it's not yet on pharmacists' shelves.
"It's still in clinical trials, so we cannot get it," he said. "Given the history of hep C drugs, it will not be cheap."
Stefan Zeuzem, MD, led the research team testing the new treatment. Dr. Zeuzem is a professor of medicine and chief of the Department of Medicine at J.W. Goethe Hospital in Frankfurt, Germany.
The goal of HCV treatment is to eliminate the virus. Treatment can fail, however, sometimes due to the virus becoming resistant to certain treatments.
HCV has several subgroups known as genotypes. Each is a slightly different form of the virus. One of the difficulties in treating HCV is that a single medication may not be effective against all the genotypes.
One potential advantage of the grazoprevir/elbasvir regimen is that it is a once-daily oral medication.
Dr. Zeuzem and team studied 421 patients with HCV infections in 60 clinics around the world. Most of the patients in the trial were white males.
Some of the patients also had cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver. Patients in this study had HCV genotypes 1, 4 and 6.
Patients received medications in what is called a double-blind study. The doctors treating the patients and the patients themselves were unaware of what medication they were taking or prescribing.
Some patients received grazoprevir/elbasvir. Others received placebos, or fake pills.
Dr. Zeuzem and colleagues found that most of the patients (299 out of 316) with HCV who took grazoprevir/elbasvir were virus-free after 12 weeks of treatment. The treatment appeared effective against all three genotypes, although few patients in this study had genotypes 4 and 6.
The most common reported side effects were headache, fatigue and nausea.
This study was presented at the International Liver Congress 2015 and published in the April issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Merck & Co., which manufactures grazoprevir/elbasvir, funded this research. Dr. Zeuzem and several other authors received fees, salaries or grants from Merck & Co., as well as other drug manufacturers like Genentech, Roche, Gilead Sciences, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Janssen and Bristol-Myers Squibb.