Health & Medical hepatitis

FDA Panel Backs 2 Hepatitis C Drugs

FDA Panel Backs 2 Hepatitis C Drugs April 28, 2011 -- A major advance for treating hepatitis C is likely headed to market after government advisors backed two new drugs this week.

Studies suggest the drugs could as much as double the effectiveness of current treatments for the potentially fatal liver disease. That could improve prospects for tens of thousands of patients and may bring thousands of more chronic sufferers into treatment, experts say.

An expert panel unanimously recommended Thursday that the FDA approve a new drug called telaprevir, saying it effectively cuts the level of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the bloodstream of infected patients. The decision comes on the heels of another unanimous vote Wednesday backing a similar drug called boceprevir.

As many as 3.9 million Americans are infected with HCV, though up to three-quarters of them don’t know it. Millions of Americans were infected with HCV because of tainted blood products in the 1990s and earlier. Today, sharing of needles by users of illicit drugs is a major source of infection.

Hepatitis C is a major cause of cirrhosis, a potentially fatal liver wasting disease. It is also a risk factor for liver cancer.

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