Boehringer Ingelheim Hepatitis C Drugs Cured 82% in Trial

Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH said its experimental hepatitis C oral treatment cleared the virus in as many as 82 percent of patients in a study.

The mid-stage Sound-C2 trial followed 362 patients who hadn’t received other treatments before taking the Ingelheim, Germany-based drugmaker’s BI 201335 protease inhibitor and BI 207127 polymerase inhibitor, either as a two-drug combination or along with a third drug, ribavirin.

Researchers reported an 82 percent cure rate among patients with the most common type of hepatitis C after 28 weeks of treatment, Boehringer said today at the European Association for the Study of the Liver annual meeting in Barcelona. Among all patients studied, 68 percent were cured. The study contrasts with other studies being presented at the conference with much smaller patient groups.

The trial didn’t include interferon, an injected drug which is combined with ribavirin and a protease inhibitor as the current standard of care. Protease inhibitors block the action of the protease enzyme that the hepatitis virus needs to replicate, stopping it from spreading. Drugmakers including Gilead Sciences Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. are also seeking to remove interferon from the treatment regimen because of flu-like side effects.

“Eliminating interferon from HCV treatment is an urgent need,” Stefan Zeuzem, chief of the department of medicine at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Hospital in Frankfurt and lead investigator of the study, said in a statement. “Releasing patients from the side effects and the lengthy treatment commitment seen with interferon would be a huge advance.”

The cure rate among patients with late-stage hepatitis C and liver cirrhosis who took BI 201335 and BI 207127 with ribavirin was as much as 71 percent after 28 weeks of treatment, Boehringer said in a separate statement. The study is the first to demonstrate a cure in cirrhotic patients using an interferon-free therapy, it said.

Hepatitis C affects as many as 170 million people globally, putting them at risk of developing liver cancer, according to the World Health Organization. The growing population of patients infected with the virus spurred Gilead’s decision in November to buy experimental hepatitis C-treatment maker Pharmasset Inc. for $10.8 billion and Bristol-Myers’s acquisition in February of Inhibitex Inc. for $2.5 billion.

The disease is most commonly transmitted through contaminated blood transfusions, organ transplants, contaminated syringes and needle-injected drug use, according to the WHO.

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