(RxWiki News) A pill is causing quite a stir after it was suggested as a potential cure for hepatitis C.
A new study from Canada found that a combination of sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi) and velpatasvir (an experimental drug) taken once daily for 12 weeks effectively cured several genotypes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in 99 percent of patients. Sofosbuvir is often used to treat HCV infection.
"This drug regimen changes the standard of care in treating patients with HCV — we can now cure almost everyone with a very simple treatment," said lead study author Jordan Feld, MD, MPH, a hepatologist at the Toronto Western Hospital Liver Clinic, in a press release. "It's incredibly gratifying to be part of research where we not only cure a disease but can also think about eliminating HCV in Canada."
Hepatitis C is a viral liver infection primarily spread through blood-to-blood contact. Today, most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs.
For reasons not well-known, between 15 and 25 percent of infected patients are able to clear HCV from their bodies without treatment. For the remaining patients, HCV infection becomes chronic. Without treatment, chronic HCV infection can lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring) which can progress to liver failure or liver cancer.
For this study, Dr. Feld and team looked at 740 adult patients from the US, Canada, Europe and China. All patients had chronic HCV infection with genotypes 1, 2, 4, 5 or 6.
After 12 weeks, 99 percent of the 624 patients given a daily tablet of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir had a sustained virologic response. In other words, these patients were still HCV-free three months after completing treatment. None of the 116 patients given a placebo had the same result.
According to Dr. Feld and team, current HCV treatments are not as effective at fighting HCV's different genotypes. That means testing is required to determine the exact genotype of the virus before treatment can begin.
On the other hand, sofosbuvir-velpatasvir was found to be equally effective at treating all strains of HCV.
"This is truly a one-size-fits-all treatment that is very easy to administer and extremely well-tolerated," Dr. Feld said. "Our challenge now is getting treatment to those who need it. Over half of people living with hepatitis C remain undiagnosed."
This study was published online Nov. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
No funding sources were disclosed.
Several study authors received support from Gilead Sciences, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie and other companies that make products used in HCV treatment.