Epogen® (epoetin alfa) is a promising treatment for anemia associated with hepatitis C, according to a study reported in the November issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Epogen is a recombinant version of a human protein that stimulates the production of red blood cells. The drug is currently indicated in the treatment of anemia associated with chronic renal failure for patients on dialysis.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers in New York evaluated the effectiveness of Epogen in alleviating anemia and minimizing the need to reduce doses of ribavirin.
Their study involved 64 anemic hepatitis C patients who were receiving the standard hepatitis C therapy of ribavirin plus interferon alfa. The patients either received Epogen or normal care for their anemia.
To gauge the effectiveness of Epogen, the researchers measured the changes in hemoglobin levels and ribavirin dosage from the beginning of the study to the 16th week of Epogen therapy.
The average hemoglobin level at week 16 in the Epogen group was significantly higher than that of the normal care group. At week four and in subsequent weeks, significantly more patients in the Epogen group did not have to have their ribavirin dosage reduced.
At the end of the study, 83 percent of the patients treated with Epogen were able to maintain their ribavirin dosages of at least 800 milligrams a day, compared with 54 percent of patients receiving normal care. Epogen was also found to be well tolerated.
The researchers said further study is warranted to determine the potential impact of Epogen on outcomes, including quality of life and sustained viral response rate.
Other sources: American Journal of Gastroenterology 2003 Nov;98(11):2491-9