Consensus Interferon Clears Hepatitis C Virus in Majority of Newly Treated


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PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- High dose consensus interferon eliminated hepatitis C virus in the majority of infected patients who had never been treated before. In 73 percent of these patients, high dose consensus interferon given five times a week eliminated the virus, a response rate that is better than that achieved with Rebetron combination therapy and with less serious side effects. Many physicians now recognize that high doses of interferon given daily can lead to better results.

"We have collected a lot of three month data, and even though the study is in its infancy, we're very excited," says Dr. Carl Jones, gastroenterology fellow at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Jones discussed results of this ongoing study at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), held in Chicago November 6-10.

"When you look only at patients with highly resistant virus types that are taking the drug three times a week, only 27 percent test negative for the virus, but of those taking the drug five times a week, 62-percent are negative by the end of month three.

"The sustained response rates for patients with resistant virus types are very dismal, especially when using monotherapy with interferons," notes Jones, referring to the standard doses of interferons often used. "Patients with more resistant disease typically show a sustained response rate of only five to ten percent when they are treated with conventional interferon alfa (Intron A) dosing. Combination therapy (Intron A plus ribavirin) shows a little more promise, but even the best data show a 21-percent sustained response rate in these patients."

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Schering-Plough's combination therapy (sold as Rebetron) for use in patients who had been treated with conventional interferon but had suffered a relapse. On December 9, the FDA broadened its approval of Rebetron for use in previously untreated patients.

A major side effect of combination therapy, attributable to the ribavirin in the combination, is hemolytic anemia. However, Dr. Jones says this side effect does not occur with high dose monotherapy using consensus interferon, sold as Infergen by Amgen.

"You don't have to worry about the hemolytic profile, and it seems to be more tolerable. We were involved in the trial with combination therapy, and we had a lot of dropouts due to hemolytic anemia and such side effects as flu-like symptoms. We're not seeing that with the higher doses of consensus interferon and it appears to be just as efficacious as combination therapy," he says.

Reports and interviews with Dr. Jones and other presenters at the 49th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases are now available on the web in text, audio, and printable formats at the Highlights in Liver Disease web site:

SOURCE Patients NewsWire CO: Patients NewsWire ST: Pennsylvania IN: MTC HEA PUB SU: 12/21/98 12:24 EST

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