New Hepatitis C Drug On Horizon Plus Update

As I have posted before, I have Hepatitis C, a disease that effects the liver. Then in August, I had a little thing with my heart where I passed out and ended up in the hospital. I touched on it here and explained what happened here. Since my last posting where I explained about the newest drug, I have been prescribed another drug for pain to replace the Gabapentin. It wasn’t working except for the side effects, they worked just great. Dizziness and pain behind the eyes, bilateral kidney pain, somnolence. So now they gave me another drug called Tramadol, which is a narcotic analgesic.  It has some side effects too, but at least it’s working to stop the constant pain. Of course I have to watch out I don’t become dependent on it.

Over two million Americans have Hep C, 75 percent of which are baby boomers. I was lucky enough to have used one of the newest drugs that is FDA approved in conjunction with the other established Hepatitis C drugs, Interferon injections and Riboviran capsules. That drug was called Teleprevir and it worked great, except for the side effects I told about in one of the previous posts. Even after stopping the drug, you can look forward to another three weeks or so of the side effects, severe itching, tapped out Hemoglobin counts and extreme tiredness. And when I say severe itching, I mean the kind of itch that feels like it’s five layers deep under the skin and you can’t scratch enough to reach it. An anit-histamine plus a sleeping pill helps somewhat with this. And the rash eventually disappears.

But there might be some more good news out there for Hep C sufferers. It’s called the “Sponge” drug and is what’s called a RNA inhibitor. Here’s an article that explains a little how it works;

With an estimated 2 million baby boomers infected with hepatitis C, the disease has reached epidemic levels among Americans age 48 to 68.

Doctors can now cure about 70 percent of hepatitis C cases, but the drugs’ side effects can be severe. And many Americans are still left with a disease that can cause liver failure and cancer.

So doctors have been desperate for better treatment options.

One of the drugs in the pipeline, called miravirsen, may be able to stop the virus with little side effects, doctors from University Health Network in Toronto, Canada, reported Wednesday.

Their findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, are preliminary — the doctors gave the drug to just 27 patients for about a month. (Another 9 patients in the study were given a placebo.) But the study is still drawing attention because it offers proof-of-concept for a whole new class of drugs, called RNA interference drugs.

RNAi drugs work differently than traditional antivirals and antibiotics. And some scientists think they may have the potential to treat many illnesses, including the big killers, cancer and heart disease.

Traditional drugs are small chemicals that bind directly to the pathogen’s machinery. In contrast, RNAi drugs are little fragments of RNA (or DNA) that act like “sponges” inside the cell. They mop up other RNA molecules that a virus or cancer cell needs to survive.

The pharmaceutical industry has been working for decades to get RNAi drugs to work, says Dr. Judy Lieberman of Harvard Medical School, who wasn’t involved in the current study.

“At first there was wild enthusiasm – and billions of dollars,” she tells Shots. “Hundreds of companies became involved because these drugs could be a whole new class of therapeutics for all kinds of diseases.”

But enthusiasm and money waned over time, as companies realized it wasn’t going to be easy to get these drugs to work.

Pharmaceutical giants, like Roche and Novartis, pulled the plug on million-dollar programs back in 2010, the journal Naturereported. But a few companies stayed the course. And, recently, there have been hints of success.

In January, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first RNAi drug, Kynamro (brand name mipomersen sodium), to help people with an extreme type of high cholesterol.

Now the current study on miravirsen offers hope for hepatitis C. “It’s the first example of really strong clinical evidence” that the RNAi therapies are going to work in people, Lieberman says.

It’s too soon to say how effective miravirsen is compared to current hepatitis C treatments, says Dr. Harry Janssen, who led the study. The goal of the current trial was to figure out how much miravirsen is needed to stop the virus temporarily — not it’s overall effectiveness. That will require a bigger study.

Four of the nine patients who got the highest dose of miravirsen temporarily cleared the virus after five injections. “That compares very well to current treatments,” Janssen says.

But unlike many medications available now, the RNAi drug works on all types of hepatitis C, even those that are tough to treat. And the short-term side effects are minimal — a rash and pain at the injection site.

Still, Janssen and his team don’t know what the long-term effects could be and exactly how to combine miravirsen with other medications. And, he says, there are other hepatitis C drugs in the pipeline that are closer to getting approval.

“So I think our study is a big step forward for hepatitis C, but a bigger step forward for medicine in general,” he says. “It opens big avenues for using this concept [RNAi drugs] in humans.”

My last check up had good news. There is no discernible or detectable virus and the doctor said that he thinks that there is over a 90 percent chance that I will have gotten rid of the disease and it won’t come back. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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