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Long-Acting Hepatitis C Therapy

Virus affects 2.7 million Americans

FRIDAY, October 18, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Pegasys, a long-acting version of the Hepatitis C therapy interferon alpha, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, manufacturer Hoffman-La Roche says.

The drug is approved for people with chronic Hepatitis C that has led to "compensated liver disease" -- a term used to indicate that the organ is still functioning properly with few or no symptoms.

Some 2.7 million Americans suffer from Hepatitis C, which is usually spread by sexual contact or reused needles. The often-fatal illness is among the most common causes of liver disease.

The drugmaker says it will provide a 12-week free sample of the new medication, whose price was not revealed, to the first 15,000 patients to get Pegasys prescriptions before the end of 2002. The recommended duration of the injected drug is 48 weeks.

Potential side effects include headache, fatigue, nausea, insomnia, depression and irritability, Hoffman-La Roche says.

Here is the company's announcement about the approval. For more about Hepatitis C, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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