PharmD Student Reinvents Hepatitis Dosing

A pharmacy student's innovative research promises to improve outcomes for patients with hepatitis C.

A student researcher at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy created a mathematical model for dosing hepatitis medications that could transform drug therapy for patients with the disease.

"We are trying to model how to change the dosage, not just change dose recommendations now," said the PharmD student Runyan Jin, MD, PhD, who is also a pediatrician. "Eventually personalized therapy will mean proper doses for each patient's genotype."

She worked with mentor Thomas Dowling, PharmD, PhD, an associate professor at the School of Pharmacy’s Cinical Pharmacology Unit, to complete the project.

The model also helps explain why African American patients respond differently to treatment than other patients, Drs. Jin and Dowling found. According to their research, which involved analyzing 900 blood samples from 400 patients with hepatitis C, the response rate of African Americans to treatment was half that of non-African Americans.

Treatment for hepatitis C typically involves ribavirin combined with injections of interferon, and is capable of supressing the virus within 6 months of therapy. African American patients are more likely to die from liver cancer caused by hepatitis C, however.

The reason, the mathematical model revealed, is that ribavirin does not circulate in the blood as effectively as it does in Caucasian patients. The difference may help providers develop individualized drug regimens for African American patients with hepatitis.

Dr. Jin presented her results in a poster at the 2010 American College of Clinical Pharmacology (ACCP) scientific meeting, where she was awarded the 2010 Wayne A. Colburn Memorial Award for best student research. When asked about her plans for the future, she said, "I want to be an expert in this area of quantitative clinical pharmacology."

For other articles in this issue, see:

  • Travel Season Promises High Volume, Stress for Pharmacists
  • Medicare Part D Price War Breeds $2 Generics
  • Target Prescription Vials Win Design of the Decade