Targeted Drugs Tackle Hepatitis C

Note: Kimberly Page, PhD, MPH, included in this story, is an infectious disease epidemiologist in the Division of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at UC San Francisco. Dr. Page is a long-term user of the Tenderloin Clinical Research Center (TCRC) managed by CTSI’s Clinical Research Services (CRS) program. She’s currently running two longitudinal studies in collaboration with the TCRC: a hepatitis vaccine efficacy study (VIP Study), and a multidisciplinary study of acute and incident hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in young street-based injection drug users (UFO Study). Both studies utilize the TCRC’s nursing, phlebotomy, and sample processing services.

By Beth Mole via

John strains to recall the gap between learning that he had hepatitis C and deciding to get treated: it was either four years or five. His thinking is clouded by the combination of three drugs that he is taking to clear the infection. After the treatments’ other side effects set in — severe flu-like symptoms, depression and exhaustion — he took leave from his job as a chef in New York. John, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, was at high risk of catching the virus, having once been addicted to crystal methamphetamine. But as a 51-year-old, he is also a baby boomer — a member of the generation born between 1945 and 1965 — millions of whom will face the disease and its sometimes harrowing treatment.

Better drugs are on the way. But the possibility of improved treatment is intensifying a debate about whether to screen a broad swathe of the US population for hepatitis C.

Last month, the pharmaceutical company Gilead, based in Foster City, California, submitted its hepatitis-C drug sofosbuvir to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval, after phase II trials showed a 100% success rate in a few patient groups when it was used in combination with existing drugs. Last week, the first phase III results showed similarly promising results (E. Lawitz et al. N. Engl. J. Med.; 2013).