New Version of Hepatitis C Drug More Effective

Doctors are hopeful a new version of a drug could help hepatitis C sufferers. Two studies, sponsored by the drug maker Hoffmann-La Roche Inc, tested a modified form of interferon called Pegasys against the standard Roferon-A.

The findings show that Pegasys is more effective and has fewer side effects.

There are four million Americans infected with hepatitis C, which can cause liver inflammation, cirrhosis, and cancer. The standard treatment for the disease has been injections of interferon alpha or a combination of interferon and another antiviral drug ribavirin.

Hoffmann-La Roche has applied for Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Pegasys. Schering-Plough Corp. is also looking for approval on a similarly modified interferon, Peg-Intron. Studies using Peg-Intron show it to be effective in 54% of patients.

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