Duke researchers add third drug into hepatitis C treatment
Posted April 8, 2010
Updated April 9, 2010
Durham, N.C. — Merice Brown, 56, has no idea how long he had hepatitis C. He wasn’t diagnosed with it until 1997, when he arrived for job training in Japan and underwent a blood test.
Like Brown, most people are shocked by the diagnosis.
“The thing about hepatitis C is that most patients don't have symptoms. They don't know they've got it unless they're tested,” said Dr. John McHutchison, of Duke Clinical Research Institute.
When Brown returned home, he began a standard drug treatment to kill the virus, using peginterferon plus ribavirin for a year.
“The medication worked, but as soon as I came off of treatment, my viral load increased,” he said.
Brown was one of the 60 percent of patients who aren't cured by the standard regimen. He joined a multinational clinical trial at Duke which added a third drug called telaprevir.
McHutchison said the drug affects a specific enzyme that the hepatitis C virus needs to replicate.
“In people that have previously not responded, we cured slightly more than half the patients – 53 percent,” he said.
Brown was on the new drug combination, and tests continue to show no virus present in his system.
“It's been a year. I am cured,” Brown said. “Hallelujah, they found something that works.”
“To be able to sit down with that person and say, ‘We've got a 50 percent chance of curing you with the new regimen, with the three drugs' is pretty exciting,” McHutchison said.
For more information about current hepatitis C studies at Duke, people should contact McHutchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.