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New Drug for Hepatitis B

Slows virus that causes deadly liver disease

WEDNESDAY, March 30, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the new Bristol-Meyers Squibb drug Baraclude (entecavir) to treat chronic hepatitis B in adults, the agency announced Wednesday.

About 1.25 million Americans are infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which attacks the liver and can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and death, the FDA said. Baraclude slows the virus' effects by interfering with its ability to reproduce.

In clinical trials, patients showed significant improvement compared with those who took an older HBV therapy, lamivudine, the agency said.

Side effects of the new drug included headache, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue and dizziness. The company said the medication could be available as soon as early April.

To learn more about hepatitis B, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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