New Antiviral Drug Shows Superior Results in Hepatitis C

Zepatier achieves sustained virologic response rate of 99.2% during a 12 to 16 week treatment course in patients with HCV.

A new direct acting antiviral (DAA) combination for hepatitis c virus (HCV) infection is more effective than sofosbuvir and peg-interferon plus ribavirin, according to a recent study. The study was presented this week at the International Liver Congress in Barcelona.

The combination drug elbasvir and grazoprevir (Zepatier/Merck) received FDA approval in January. The product is meant to be taken once a day for 12 to 16 weeks.

It is effective for HCV genotypes (gt) 1 and 4. HCV gt-1 is the most prevalent strain in the United States, while HCV gt-4 is common in Egypt and Africa. The study is among the first to directly compare products in the growing arsenal of DAAs, according to Jan Sperl, MD, of the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Sperl is the lead author of a study called C-EDGE, which is a randomized, parallel-group trial of patients with HCV gt-1 and gt-4 infections. The subjects were administered either 12 weeks of Zepatier or sofosbuvir/peg-interferon and ribavirin.

Those getting Zepatier were either treatment-naive or had failed the sofosbuvir/peg-interferon/ribavirin regimen.

Patients administered Zepatier did better in terms of having fewer side effects, but achieved the same sustained viral response. The Zepatier group had an SVR12 of 99.2%, compared with 90.5% in the group taking the sofosbuvir/peg-interferon/ribavirin combination.

The Zepatier regimen also spared patients the negative side effects that come with interferon, such as low red blood cell count, low white blood cell count, flu symptoms, and pyrexia.