Taribavirin Shows Promise for Chronic Hepatitis C

Study suggests the drug may reduce the risk of severe anemia compared to ribavirin

MONDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- When given in combination with pegylated interferon for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC), taribavirin and ribavirin produce similar rates of sustained virological response, but taribavirin is less likely to cause severe anemia, according to a study in the July issue of the Journal of Hepatology.

As part of a phase II trial, Robert Gish, M.D., from the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and colleagues randomized 180 patients with CHC to receive pegylated interferon alfa-2a plus either ribavirin or taribavirin.

There was no statistically significant difference in the number of patients with undetectable hepatitus C virus (HCV) after 12 weeks (taribavirin 38 percent, 42 percent and 49 percent for the 800 mg, 1,200 mg and 1,600 mg groups compared to ribavirin 49 percent [pooled 1,000 mg and 1,200 mg groups]). The prevalence of severe anemia (defined as a hemaglobin less than 10 grams per deciliter) was less in the taribavirin (4 percent) than the ribavirin group (27 percent).

Despite the comparable efficacy and better hematologic profile of taribavirin reported in this study, the authors warned that further data are needed, since two large phase III trials failed to show noninferiority of taribavirin. An editorialist commented, "The ongoing phase IIb trial should substantially clarify taribavirin's role in the treatment of CHC."

The authors of this study have declared a relationship with the manufacturers of the drugs discussed in this study and have received funding from the drug companies to carry out their research.

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