Two investigational drugs for hepatitis C (HCV), both taken orally, combined effectively in difficult-to-treat patients without the use of pegylated interferon, researchers reported.
The drugs -- faldaprevir and deleobuvir (plus ribavirin) -- led to undetectable HCV 12 weeks after the end of treatment in 52% to 69% of patients, without the need for interferon, according to Stefan Zeuzem, MD, of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Medical Center in Frankfurt, Germany, and colleagues.
But efficacy was lower when investigators omitted the standard HCV drug ribavirin from the mix, Zeuzem and colleagues reported in the Aug. 15 issue of theNew England Journal of Medicine.
The current standard of care for the hard-to-treat genotype 1 of HCV is interferon and ribavirin, in combination with one of the protease inhibitors telaprevir (Incivek) and boceprevir (Victrelis).
Faldaprevir is a protease inhibitor in the same class as telaprevir and boceprevir and has been found effective with interferon and ribavirin, with fewer side effects than the older drugs.
But researchers are trying hard to get rid of interferon, which is difficult to take and often leads to treatment discontinuation, so that it is unlikely faldaprevir will be used in that context.
Instead, investigators are testing it in combination with other so-called direct-acting agents that target the HCV itself, rather than boosting the immune system as interferon does.
The findings reported by Zeuzem and colleagues are "encouraging" and show that "more effective treatment with shorter duration and improved side effect profile" is on the horizon, commented Gyongyi Szabo, MD, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.