UEGW: New treatment options raise hope for hepatitis C patients

STAT-C drugs poised to improve the outlook for some of the most treatment-resistant patients

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Novel treatment approaches and new drug combinations are bringing new hope for better treatment outcomes in individuals infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Experts and patients alike are pinning their expectations on a new class of antiviral agents, called STAT-C drugs, which are currently in development for the treatment of chronic HCV infection.

According to Prof. Marina Berenguer from Valencia University in Spain, speaking at the 18th United European Gastroenterology Week (UEGW) in Barcelona, initial studies in which STAT-C drugs have been added to the current standard of care have yielded promising results in HCV patients who have not responded to, or relapsed after, standard therapy.

Worldwide, approximately 170 million individuals have been exposed to HCV, and around 130 million are considered to be chronically infected.

The aim of HCV treatment is to eradicate the virus (this is called a “sustained virological response” or SVR) and prevent hepatitis C complications. Current antiviral therapies produce sustained eradication of infection in about 50% of cases.

STAT-C antivirals: improving outcomes in genotype 1 patients

“We are very excited by the prospect of new antiviral agents that are currently in development and undergoing clinical trials,” explained Prof. Berenguer at the UEGW press conference.

A new class of antivirals called STAT-C (“Specifically Targeted Antiviral Therapy for Hepatitis C“) compounds directly target enzymes required for the reproduction of HCV.

Protease inhibitors and polymerase inhibitors are in the most advanced stages of clinical testing, with initial studies yielding promising results in patients with HCV genotype 1.

“The addition of protease inhibitors to pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin appears to markedly increase the chances of achieving an SVR in these patients,” Prof. Berenguer said.

“We have seen SVR rates of up to 75% in genotype 1 patients with this new combination of drugs, which is unprecedented.”

Prof. Berenguer is hopeful that these new treatment options will soon be available for those HCV patients who are currently failing to respond to treatment or have relapsed after showing an initial response.

By C. Musah