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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Â announces it has approved Victrelis (boceprevir) to treat certain adults with chronic hepatitis C. Victrelis is used for patients who still have some liver function, and who either have not been previously treated with drug therapy for their hepatitis C or who have failed such treatment. Victrelis is approved for use in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.
The safety and effectiveness of Victrelis was evaluated in two phase 3 clinical trials with 1,500 adult patients. In both trials, two-thirds of patients receiving Victrelis in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin experienced a significantly increased sustained virologic response (i.e., the hepatitis C virus was no longer detected in the blood 24 weeks after stopping treatment), compared to pegylated interferon and ribavirin alone, the current standard of care.
When a person sustains a virologic response after completing treatment, this suggests that HCV infection has been cured.
Sustained virologic response can result in decreased cirrhosis and complications of liver disease, decreased rates of liver cancer (hepatocelluar carcinoma), and decreased mortality.
"Victrelis is an important new advance for patients with hepatitis C," says Edward Cox, MD, MPH, director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in FDAs Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "This new medication provides an effective treatment for a serious disease, and offers a greater chance of cure for some patients hepatitis C infection compared to currently available therapy."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C, a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver that can lead to diminished liver function or liver failure.
Most people with hepatitis have no symptoms of the disease until liver damage occurs, which may take several years.
Most liver transplants performed in the United States are due to progressive liver disease caused by hepatitis C virus infection. After the initial infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV), most people develop chronic hepatitis C. Some will develop cirrhosis of the liver over many years. Cirrhosis can lead to liver damage with complications such as bleeding, jaundice (yellowish eyes or skin), fluid accumulation in abdomen, infections, or liver cancer.
People can get the hepatitis C virus in a number of ways, including: exposure to blood that is infected with the virus; being born to a mother with HCV; sharing a needle; having sex with an infected person; sharing personal items such as a razor, toothbrush with someone who is infected with the virus, or from unsterilized tattoo or piercing tools.
Victrelis is a pill taken three times a day with food. The therapy is part of a class of drugs referred to as protease inhibitors, which work by binding to the virus and preventing it from multiplying.
The most commonly reported side effects in patients receiving Victrelis in combination with pegylated interferon and ribavirin include fatigue, low red blood cell count (anemia), nausea, headache and taste distortion (dysgeusia).
Victrelis is marketed by Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck.