New investigational treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dr. Mark Levstik, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, is one of the investigators in a clinical study published in the March 31 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) for a new treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV). The SPRINT-2 study demonstrated that addition of the investigational oral medication boceprevir to standard treatment significantly improved sustained virologic response - the goal of treatment - in a significantly greater number of adult patients who failed previous treatment and in those who were new to treatment for HCV, compared to standard therapy alone. The new treatment also allowed many patients to shorten the duration of therapy from the standard 48 weeks, in some cases by almost half.

"Being able to shorten the length of treatment is extremely important given that one of the most challenging aspects of treating HCV is managing the debilitating side effects. Because the side effects are so hard to take, unfortunately some patients stop their course of therapy," said Dr. Levstik.

Boceprevir, an investigational agent not currently available in Canada, belongs to a novel class of direct-acting antiviral agents - called HCV protease inhibitors - that reduce the amount of virus in the blood through inhibition of the function of a viral protein called 'protease' that HCV needs to replicate.

An estimated 250,000 individuals in Canada are infected with HCV and there are 3,200 to 5,000 newly infected individuals each year. HCV damages the liver and may lead to serious complications, including death, when left untreated. It is the leading cause of liver transplants in Canada.