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Duke researchers add third drug into hepatitis C treatment

Posted April 8, 2010
Updated April 9, 2010

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— 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.

Duke researchers introduce drug into hepatitis C treatment Duke researchers introduce drug into hepatitis C treatment

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 mchut001@mc.duke.edu.

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