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Future hepatitis cure rates expected to soar after “astonishing” preliminary results from new drugs

As the burden of Hepatitis C (HCV) associated liver failure and liver cancer rises in our community so hepatitis C therapy is undergoing radical and rapid change, says Centenary’s Prof Geoff McCaughan.

A review has shown how the next generation drugs telaprevir and boceprevir, approved by the TGA in 2011 for use by patients with the most common genotype 1 of the blood-borne viral infection, are significantly improving outcomes for patients living with hepatitis C.

The review, published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) today (Monday, June 4), describes how these drugs, when used in conjunction with existing therapy, boost the percentage of patients who clear the
virus from 45% to 70%.

Not only do the new drugs allow more patients to be cured, they also work much faster than conventional therapy. The review indicates that adding the drugs to conventional therapy allowed treatment times to be halved, from 12 months to 6 months, for around half of the patients without impacting on outcomes.

Prof McCaughan, writing in an MJA editorial published in today’s MJA, said progress in the field is astonishing.

There are also even newer kinds of drugs coming down the development pipeline.

“It seems likely that, within five years, we will have short-duration anti-hepatitis C therapy with minimal side-effects and cure rates above 90%,” said Prof McCaughan, who is head of the Liver Injury and Cancer group at the Centenary Institute and a physician based at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

“The challenge then will be how we can deliver such therapies to the 200,000 Australians with  hepatitis C infection.”

Treatment times could be wound in to three months with further advances, Prof McCaughan said.

He said the long duration, side-effects and uncertain outcomes of conventional hepatitis C therapy see many people go without treatment.

Among patients with chronic infections, it is thought just 2% per year are receiving the antiviral therapy which could stop them from progressing to end-stage liver disease.

“… by moving hepatitis C treatment from hospital clinics into the community these new therapies will potentially reduce stigma and may stimulate increased testing and treatment for hepatitis C infection,” Prof McCaughan said.

“Short treatment duration, high cure rates and low toxicity will mean that all hepatitis C-infected patients should eventually receive curative therapy.”

Professor McCaughan is Assistant Director of the Centenary Institute and head of the Institute’s Liver Injury and Cancer program. He is also Director of the Australian National Liver Transplant Unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

He is available for media interviews on Sunday 3 and before 0800 and after 1100 on Monday June 4.

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For interviews contact:

Suzie Graham, the Centenary Institute, 0418 683 166, s.graham@centenary.org.au

Or Niall Byrne, Science in Public for Centenary, 0417 131 977, niall@scienceinpublic.com.au

Read the full article from the Medical Journal of Australia here.

Read the full media release and backgrounder here.

ABN 22 654 201 090 has Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status with the Australian Tax Office. 
© 2014 Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology.