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Abbott Labs’ Hepatitis C drug regimen cures 99 percent of patients in clinical trial

by Melody Chandler
Oct 17, 2012

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Hepatitis C is often contracted through direct contact with infected blood or bodily fluids.

The viral disease attacks the liver and can lead to severe liver damage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 12,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver disease.

Of the patients with hepatitis C, only about 20-25 percent have actually been diagnosed and actually know they have hepatitis C.


Only 6-11 percent of those diagnosed have actually been treated for their hepatitis C.


CDC recommends that baby boomers get a one-time screening for hepatitis C because thousands who are infected can benefit from early treatment before symptoms are obvious.

Pain/ache in the right upper portion of their abdomen
Darkening of their urine
Skin rash

(Information from an interview with Dr. Donald Jensen, director of the Center for Liver Disease at the University of Chicago Medicine.)  

A new hepatitis C drug regimen in clinical trials cures 99 percent of patients new to treatment and 93 percent of patients who didn't respond to prior treatments, reports Abbott Laboratories.

The antiviral drug regimen ABT-450/r, ABT-267 and ABT-333 along with a conventional hepatitis C medication showed sustained results in patients at 12 weeks post-treatment. The trials, still only in phase 2, documented the 99 percent cure rate for new patients with the hepatitis C virus.

Additionally, a separate group of patients whose hepatitis C had not been helped by other treatments, “null-responders,” saw a 93 percent cure rate.

Although the 99 percent cure rate is an amazing number in itself, “it is really the null-responders that stand out in this study,” said Dr. Donald Jensen, director of the Center for Liver Disease at the University of Chicago Medicine.

“Ninety-three percent of response rate is really phenomenal for that very difficult to treat group of patients,” Jensen said.

One percent of patients treated experienced mild side effects that included fatigue, headache and joint pain.

The treatment regimen that Abbott Labs is developing is interferon-free. Interferon is a drug that is typically used in the treatment of hepatitis C, said Roseanne Durril, spokeswoman for Abbott, based in North Chicago. 

“Eliminating interferon from an [hepatitis C virus] regimen is important because many people are unable or unwilling to take it,” Durril said.

“Interferon has been sort of the backbone of therapy for hepatitis C since the early 1990s. But it has a lot of side effects,” Jensen said.

Side effects often include flu-like symptoms. But because patients usually get interferon injections from anywhere from 24-48 weeks, it can be a very difficult process for patients, said Jensen.

Abbott Laboratories is just one of several companies though developing interferon-free therapies for hepatitis C, Jensen added.

Chronic hepatitis C affects as many as 180 million people, with more than 4 million of those cases in the United States, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Another important aspect of the new drug is that it treats patients suffering from genotype 1 hepatitis C.

“Genotype 1 is the most common form of HCV in the United States and Europe,” said Durril.

The results of Abbott’s and other researchers’ studies will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) in Boston, Nov. 9-13.

Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from an infection by the hepatitis C virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although there are vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, hepatitis C can only be treated after infection.

Abbott Laboratories, now going into phase 3 clinical trials of the new drugs, hopes to make the new drugs available by 2015, said Durril. “Our goal, based on current assumptions and timelines, is to be the first to introduce an [interferon]-free treatment for [genotype 1] patients.”