Two experimental drugs – given together to people with hepatitis C – appear to be effective in treating the virus, and may provide a new option for patients who can’t tolerate the side effects of standard medications.
Researchers working with drug maker Bristol-Meyers Squibb found patients given the new antiviral drugs daclatasvir and asunaprevir had a “sustained virologic response” in several studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
To test the medicines, researchers at more than a half-dozen U.S. medical centers administered them to patients in various combinations for about six months. In some cases, patients received the two new antivirals, along with the standard treatments of interferon and ribavirin. In other cases, patients received only the two experimental drugs.
Researchers reported both groups of patients benefited from the drugs, which are not yet approved for widespread use.
“This preliminary study … showed that a sustained virologic response can be achieved with two direct-acting antiviral agents only,” they concluded. “In addition, a high rate of sustained virologic response was achieved when the two direct-acting antiviral agents were combined with [standard hep C medicines.”
Hepatitis C virus, the most common form of the virus, affects more than 4 million Americans. It's spread through contact with contaminated blood and is the leading cause of chronic liver disease, and can lead to liver cancer.