The pursuit is heating up among hepatitis C drug manufacturers with the goal of getting faster-working medications to the pharmacy shelves. The current standard treatment generally requires 12 weeks of daily medication use, but Gilead Sciences, Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merck are developing protocols that could potentially cure hepatitis C infection in six weeks or less.
Gilead is currently testing an oral drug combination of three direct-acting antivirals which can be used for six weeks in patients with genotypes 1 through 5. Meanwhile, Achillion has a promising medication in Phase II testing called ACH-3102 that, combined with Sovaldi, is curing 100% of patients in just six weeks.
Merck is expected to have a combination medication of grazoprevir/elbasvir approved next year, one which can cure 95% of patients. However, this treatment is still expected to take 12 weeks. However, the unique thing about this new medication is that it has shown success in studies of patients with failed prior treatments and those with cirrhosis.
There are some hepatitis C patients who have already been cured in the shorter timeframe of six weeks using medications already approved and on the market; however, these patients have had easier to treat genotypes without complications and generally relied on combinations of medications.
Patients with tougher genotypes and complications will surely welcome news and FDA approvals about the new drugs in the pipeline. In addition, cutting the treatment time in half, to six weeks, would represent serious savings of health care expenditures for patients and payers.
Harding A. New pill for late-stage hepatitis C cures 95 percent. Everydayhealth.com
Kitamura M. Need for speed defines hepatitis C race for Gilead, Achillion. BloomburgBusiness April 29, 2015.