New hope for hepatitis C patients

Liver damage from hepatitis C is the No. 1 reason for liver transplants at University Hospital and across the country. But that may change in the wake of a new study involving San Antonio patients. The study showed an experimental combination of drugs effectively cured the infection in more than 90 percent of patients with cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver.

The drug combination used in the study did not include interferon — a powerful drug currently used for hepatitis C that can have serious side effects, and often can’t be tolerated in patients with cirrhosis.

New treatments for hepatitis C can cure the sickest of patients

“These results will change the face of hepatitis C treatment forever,” said Dr. Fred Poordad, vice president of academic and clinical affairs at the Texas Liver Institute, and professor of medicine at the UT Health Science Center, who led the study. “We now know we can cure even the sickest patients.”

Poordad, who also works with patients at University Transplant Center, a partnership between University Health System and the Health Science Center, recently presented the results of the study at the International Liver Congress in London. They were simultaneously published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Study shows more good news about hepatitis c medications

The study included 380 patients with hepatitis C-related cirrhosis at medical centers around the world. They received either 12 or 24 weeks of treatment with a cocktail of medicines — ABT-450 with ritonavir, ombitasvir, dasabuvir and ribavirin.

Among those who took the hepatitis c medicines for 12 weeks, 91.8 percent had no detectable trace of hepatitis C in their bloodstreams 12 weeks after their last dose. For those treated for 24 weeks, 95.9 percent were effectively cured.

“This study is novel in that it is the first to focus on patients with cirrhosis or end-stage scarring due to hepatitis C, and showed that the majority can be cured with just 12 weeks of pill therapy,” Poordad said.

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