Hepatitis C is one of the most dreaded conditions in the United States today, affecting approximately 2 percent of the population. It remains the most common cause for liver transplantation in the United States; 10,000-20,000 patients with hepatitis C die annually. Standard interferon/ribavirin regimens are given for six to twelve months, and only yield a cure rate of 40-50 percent. Furthermore, patients face a high risk of side effects, including, but not limited to, thyroid abnormalities, retinopathy, pancreatitis and blood cell dyscrasias.
Fortunately this clinical picture has brightened considerably in the last two years. Leading hepatologists in the United States and around the world, including those at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, have helped to usher in a new era in hepatitis C treatment. Based on Phase III trials for which Penn State Hershey served as an investigational site, the protease inhibitors boceprevir and telaprevir were approved in 2011. Ian Schreibman, M.D., associate professor of medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine points out, “Unlike interferon, boceprevir and telaprevir directly disrupt the viral replication cycle. When combined with interferon and ribavirin, dramatically higher cure rates of about 70 percent were seen using a regimen only half as long (about six months). This represents a true paradigm shift in hepatitis C treatment.” Continue reading