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Drug Combo Fights Tough-to-Treat Hepatitis C

Ribavirin plus Infergen held back liver damage, study found

MONDAY, Oct. 30, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with the drugs ribavirin and Infergen (a highly potent form of Interferon) may help hepatitis C patients who've been unresponsive to other therapies, a new study finds.

A team at the Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Medicine concluded that this combination therapy was nearly twice as effective at controlling hepatitis C's effects on the liver than standard treatments. The study included more than 500 hepatitis C patients, 77 percent of whom had advanced fibrosis.

"The results are promising," principal investigator Dr. Bruce R. Bacon, director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology, said in a prepared statement.

"This group of non-responders is a very challenging population to treat, and we found that patients who followed through with this therapy had a response nearly twice that of previous trials looking at this population," he said.

The findings were to be presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases annual meeting, in Boston.

About 3.9 million Americans have hepatitis C and about 250,000 who have been offered therapy are unresponsive to current drug therapies, and the number of unresponsive hepatitis C patients in the United States is increasing by about 50,000 a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In another study presented at the same conference, SLU researchers found that successful therapy can reverse liver damage in patients with chronic hepatitis C. The long-term study of 150 patients found that liver damage in 79 percent of patients with stage 2 or worse fibrosis greatly improved following therapy.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about hepatitis C.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University, news release, Oct. 30, 2006
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