The efficacy of current hepatitis C treatment methods can be doubled by adding an experimental antiviral drug, research has shown.
While the virus is currently treated by a combination of the immune booster pegylated interferon and the antiviral agent ribavirin, a study funded by Merck and published in The Lancet found that adding boceprevir to the mix greatly improved the percentage of patients who defeated the condition.
Study leader Dr Paul Kwo, of Indiana University School of Medicine, divided 520 patients with hepatitis C into five groups, each of which received various combinations of the drugs. No placebos were used.
Only 38% of patients given standard therapy had no signs of the virus at the end of 48 weeks. Some 75% of those who underwent a four-week induction period with interferon and ribavirin followed by 44 weeks of treatment with all three drugs were virus free.
Boceprevir works by attacking the protease enzyme used by the virus to replicate.
Copyright Press Association 2010