Ninty nine percent of the hepatitis C patients who responded to treatment with Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) have remained virus free up to four years later, according to results presented at the 38th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver.
"This information tells us that when a patient achieves a sustained virological response, they are indeed really 'cured',"Dr. Mark Swain, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada "This is a critical message for patients whether they are about to start therapy or in the midst of it -- the end result is worth it."
Researchers for Roche, which markets the drug, said a possible explanation for the success of Pegasys may be found in another study showing that levels of the drug -- which hepatitis C patients take once weekly -- remain constant in the body over the seven-day period thereby suppressing the virus on a constant basis.
The researchers said that in contrast, half of patients treated with PEG-Intron (peginterferon alfa-2b) -- a rival drug marketed by Schering -- had no detectable drug in their bodies by the fifth day after their weekly injection, potentially resulting in renewed virus replication.
"Our study demonstrated a difference in drug levels between the two pegylated interferons," said Dr. Raffaele Bruno, University of Pavia, Italy. "We concluded that Peg-Intron should be intensified from its current once weekly dose to a twice-weekly dose to avoid the hepatitis C virus from replicating."
Other sources: Roche