“A new treatment for hepatitis C ‘cured’ 90% of patients with the infection in 12 weeks, scientists said,” BBC News reports after a new drug protocol designed to target the protein that assists the spread of the virus through the body has shown promising results.
The study the BBC reports on involved 394 people with hepatitis C who had not responded to previous standard treatment, or who had responded but later relapsed.
They were randomised to either an active five-drug combination or a matching placebo for 12 weeks. The five drugs were ABT-450, ritonavir and ombitasvir, dasabuvir and ribavirin. At the end of the 12-week treatment period, the active treatment group stopped treatment, while all people in the placebo group switched to receiving 12 weeks’ active treatment.
The people in the original active treatment group were only assessed 12 weeks after they had stopped taking their treatment, at which time the majority of them (96%) did demonstrate a response.
However, because of their unusual RCT design, by this time there was no comparison group as the placebo group had just then completed the same 12-week course of treatment. In this sense, the research was essentially a cohort study that has reported the outcomes for a group of people tested with a particular treatment.
Overall, the results suggest that this drug combination may be effective for people with the hepatitis C virus who have not responded to previous treatment. But whether this is more effective or more tolerable than other standard treatment options for such people remains to be proven. Side effects remain a big issue in terms of drug treatments for hepatitis C.