New Generation Drugs for Hepatitis C


It is estimated that more than 200 million people worldwide are infected with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). More than 70 percent of those infected with the virus will eventually develop chronic liver disease. The rate of new HCV infection is four times that of HIV. Many people who may have experimented with intravenous drug use ten or twenty years ago, are now suffering from liver cirrhosis.

Although HCV is not easily transmitted sexually, 20 percent of HCV cases can be attributed to risky sexual behavior involving multiple partners. Others at high risk include health workers and people exposed to needle sticks and blood splashes, and those sharing toothbrushes and razors with another household member, who may be infected. Direct medical costs to treat HCV-related disease could exceed $13 billion for the years 2010 to 2019.

The mainstay treatment for hepatitis C is the antiviral drug, interferon alpha, which is used alone or in combination with ribavirin, a synthetic nucleoside analog. Interferon is effective in approximately 15 percent of patients, whereas the interferon/ribavirin combination works in about 35 percent of patients.

The most recent approval was in August 2001 for Peg-Intron in combination therapy with Rebetol. Other players in the hepatitis C market include Roche with Roferon A (recombinant interferon-alpha 2a), Amgen with Infergen (consensus interferon alpha) and GlaxoSmithK-line with Wellferon (recombinant interferon-alpha nl).


Pharmabiz, October 18, 2001