Showing posts with label telaprevir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label telaprevir. Show all posts

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Managing Triple Therapy in the Treatment-Experienced Patient

Managing Triple Therapy in the Treatment-Experienced Patient


Published on Mar 12, 2013
Apart the HCV Patient Care for the Non-Hepatologist educational program, an AGA HCV initiative, this webinar is intended to help general practice gastroenterologists enhance their ability to effectively and efficiently treat most HCV-positive patients.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Adding telaprevir improves acute hepatitis C treatment for HIV-positive men

Adding telaprevir improves acute hepatitis C treatment for HIV-positive men

Liz Highleyman

Published: 12 March 2013
Adding telaprevir (Incivo or Incivek) to pegylated interferon and ribavirin shortens the duration of treatment and increases the likelihood of a cure for HIV-positive men with acute sexually transmitted hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to study findings presented last week at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2013) in Atlanta.

Since the early 2000s, researchers have reported outbreaks of apparently sexually transmitted HCV among HIV-positive gay and bisexual men, first in the UK and continental Europe and later in Australia and the US.

Acute hepatitis C often has no symptoms – or general symptoms like fever that can be mistaken for flu – so most people do not seek treatment when they become infected. HIV-positive people are in a unique position because those on antiretroviral therapy (ART) are advised to receive regular liver function tests to monitor for drug toxicity. Unexplained elevation of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and other liver enzymes should trigger viral hepatitis testing, which may reveal recent infection.

Continue reading...

View abstract 156LB on the conference website.

A webcast of the session in which this research was presented, Advances in ARV and Anti-Hepatitis C Virus Therapy, is available on the conference website.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Telaprevir shows promise in black patients with genotype 1 HCV

Telaprevir shows promise in black patients with genotype 1 HCV
March 11, 2013
ATLANTA — Preliminary data presented here at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections show that combination telaprevir treatment may be effective in black null responder patients with chronic genotype 1 hepatitis C.

Researchers from Northwestern University and Vertex Pharmaceuticals are conducting the OUTLOOK study, which is a single-arm, open-label, phase 4 study that includes black patients who were previously treated for chronic genotype 1 HCV. None of the 34 patients had achieved a sustained virologic response after treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin. For this study, all patients received pegylated interferon and ribavirin for 48 weeks and telaprevir (Incivek, Vertex) for 12 weeks.
Read more....

Spending on HCV, specialty medications rose sharply in 2012
March 11, 2013
Consumer spending on drugs to treat complex illnesses, particularly hepatitis C, increased substantially during 2012, while costs for traditional prescription drugs declined, according to a recent report.

The report, published by Express Scripts, indicated that total spending on prescription drugs decreased by 1.5% during 2012, marking the first such reduction in more than 20 years. Spending on specialty medications for complex illnesses that included hepatitis C, however, increased by 18.4% among commercially insured patients, compared with a 17.1% increase in 2011.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Telaprevir: Added benefit in certain patients with hepatitis C

The drug telaprevir (trade name: Incivo®) has been available for treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection of genotype 1 since autumn 2011. In an early benefit assessment pursuant to the "Act on the Reform of the Market for Medicinal Products" (AMNOG), the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) examined whether telaprevir offers an added benefit compared with the present standard therapy.

According to the findings of the assessment, the new drug telaprevir offers advantages in various groups of patients with chronic hepatitis C infection of genotype 1. The available studies provide proof, indications or "hints" of an added benefit. However, not only the probability but also the extent of added benefit varies.

An addition to previous standard drug therapy

Hepatitis C viruses attack the liver and can trigger inflammation there. If this becomes chronic, cirrhosis can develop and liver function progressively deteriorates. Moreover, the risk of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC) increases. The virostatic drug telaprevir inhibits the reproduction of hepatitis C viruses. Experts assume that if no viruses are detectable in the blood over a sustained period after treatment (sustained virological response, SVR), the risk of secondary disease is reduced.
Telaprevir is administered in addition to peginterferon alfa (immune-system enhancing drug) and ribavirin (virostatic drug), which are already on the market. In accordance with the approval status, different patient groups are treated for different periods, which was allowed for in the assessment. The dual combination of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin is the present standard therapy, and this was compared with the triple combination of these two standard drugs and telaprevir.

Studies largely only provide data on morbidity and adverse effects

Overall 3 relevant studies were identified. The outcomes considered were "mortality", "secondary complications of treatment (morbidity)", measured in the studies by means of the surrogate outcome "SVR", as well as "health-related quality of life" and "adverse effects".

The quality-of-life results for treatment-naïve (i.e. previously untreated) patients without cirrhosis were not statistically significant. No evaluable data on this outcome were available for other patient groups. Due to the too short study duration, the event rates for mortality were too low in all patient groups to be able to draw robust conclusions.

Extent of added benefit cannot be classified on the basis of the surrogate outcome for morbidity

The extent of added benefit cannot be classified on the basis of the surrogate outcome "SVR". This parameter is not a patient-relevant outcome in itself and there are no studies in which SVR is validated as a surrogate outcome in accordance with the usual criteria employed by IQWiG. Nevertheless, the Institute accepts SVR in the context of this assessment as a surrogate for the reduced incidence of liver cancer. This is because it is currently accepted that patients with no detectable hepatitis C virus in the blood are at lower risk of liver cancer. However, it is not known how many cases of liver cancer can in fact be prevented by telaprevir and it is therefore unclear whether the added benefit can be classified as "minor" "considerable" or "major".According to the corresponding legal ordinance, the added benefit is thus "unquantifiable".

Under consideration of the beneficial and harmful effects of telaprevir, overall IQWiG reaches different conclusions for different patient groups.

Advantages for treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis who have a high viral load

Different results for morbidity were shown for treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis, depending on the viral load in the blood at the start of treatment. Proof of an added benefit of telaprevir was only determined for patients with a high viral load. However, the extent of the added benefit is unquantifiable as it refers to the surrogate outcome "SVR".

For treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis, the data also provide proof and an indication of greater harm due to the adverse effects "anaemia" and "rash" respectively, the extent being classified as "considerable" in the former and "minor" in the latter case. In the consideration of the beneficial and harmful effects of telaprevir, this did not lead to a restriction in the overall conclusion for patients with a high viral load, as these side effects were nearly exclusively classified as "not serious".

In contrast, for treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis who have a low viral load at baseline, the data provide an indication of lesser benefit of telaprevir versus the comparator therapy. This is due to the fact that an added benefit regarding SVR is not proven, so that only the harmful effects are taken into account.

An added benefit of telaprevir is not proven for treatment-naïve patients with cirrhosis, as the manufacturer dossier did not contain any evaluable data.

Indication of an advantage also in patients with unsuccessful pre-treatment

Depending on the cirrhosis status, different results were shown for patients in whom treatment had so far been unsuccessful (non-responders). Regarding morbidity, the data provide an indication of an added benefit of telaprevir in patients without cirrhosis. The data only provide a "hint" of an added benefit in non-responders with cirrhosis. In this context, "indication" and "hint" refer to the surrogate outcome "SVR". Therefore the extent of added benefit is unquantifiable.

As in the case of treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis, indications of greater harm due to the side effects "anaemia" and "rash" did not lead to a restriction in the overall conclusion.

No additional benefit for relapsed patients

In patients without cirrhosis who relapsed after standard therapy, the treatment regimen deviated from the approval status. Consequently, the added benefit cannot be assessed on the basis of the available data so that an added benefit is not proven.

In patients with cirrhosis who relapsed, the data provide an indication of an added benefit regarding SVR. However, at the same time they also provide an indication of greater harm (extent: considerable) regarding serious adverse events. Under consideration of the beneficial and harmful effects of telaprevir, IQWiG concluded that overall an added benefit is not proven for this patient group.

G-BA decides on the extent of added benefit

The procedure for inferring the overall conclusion on the extent of added benefit is a proposal from IQWiG. The G-BA, which has opened a formal commenting procedure, decides on the extent of added benefit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday HCV News;Telaprevir/Combination DAAs/Shortening Therapy Duration


Telaprevir/Combination DAAs/Shortening Therapy Duration - Second-phase hepatitis C virus RNA decline during telaprevir-based therapy increases with drug effectiveness: Implications for treatment duration -

Hepatology June 2011
Jeremie Guedj and Alan S. Perelson
From Theoretical Biology and Biophysics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM.

"we estimated that telaprevir induced a four-fold more rapid second-phase viral decline than IFN-based therapy.....Even if resistance was avoided by using an appropriate combination of DAAs, other factors might affect our prediction. First, the ability of IFN-sparing antiviral strategies to reach every viral population residing in the liver or in extrahepatic reservoirs is unknown. Second, the combination of several DAAs might increase toxicity and thus the adherence to treatment. How this may impact treatment duration has only been touched on in this study, and more data are needed to understand how the lack of adherence to treatment may favor the appearance and persistence of resistant virus.

Thus, attainment of SVR in less than 10 weeks in 95% of fully compliant patients would require combination drug regimens (1) that have a genetic barrier high enough so that resistance is avoided, (2) that have high drug penetration into all anatomical sites that contain infected cells, and (3) for which the pharmacokinetics of the drugs in the regimen allow the effectiveness of the regimen against viral production to be maintained at high levels throughout the course of treatment.

In summary, our finding that the second-phase slope increases with the effectiveness of therapy and our expectation that a combination of DAA agents will suppress the growth of drug-resistant variants holds open the promise that more effective therapies that use combinations of DAA agents may, one day, lead to SVR with treatment durations of 2-3 months."... Read More...

HCV Treaters Shortage Editorial - Distributive justice and the arrival of direct-acting antivirals: Who should be first in line? -
"The availability of DAA therapy will forever change the landscape of HCV, in that we will be able to cure patients of disease who we were unable to cure in the past. Unfortunately, this medical breakthrough will be coupled with resource scarcity. Historically, some of the greatest scientific discoveries in medicine have failed to provide a distribution system that appropriately emphasized not only justice and equality but also medical need. We hope to learn from the past by proposing a preconceived plan that would both educate patients and allocate therapy to the neediest patients first, thereby fulfilling the moral framework of distributive justice."

"On average, a health care provider can reasonably initiate therapy on only three patients each week before exceeding their work capacity.....current staffing will be unable to meet the demands of all patients with HCV who are expected to request treatment......We propose a needs-based allocation system....patients who have previously deferred therapy and new patients will be prioritized on the basis of need, with patients with cirrhosis at one end of the spectrum and asymptomatic patients with F0-F2 fibrosis at the other end of the spectrum. This system satisfies the principle of justice while placing appropriate emphasis on medical need."...Read More..

Nature Outlook collection on hepatitis C -
Published online
Click here for free registration.

The US Food and Drug Administration's approval of two new medications for hepatitis C in May marked the dawn of an era in treating this insidious disease.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) can lurk silently for decades. Indeed, most of those who will benefit from this advance have no idea about their improved prospects, because they are unaware they are infected. The coming years could bring a surge in cases of the chronic form in people who unwittingly contracted the virus back in the 1960s and 70s through sharing needles and blood transfusions. Many of these chronic infections will progress to cirrhosis of the liver, and some to liver cancer and liver failure. Hepatitis C is the leading reason for liver transplantations. Until now, the only treatment option has been a gruelling year-long regimen of interferon-α plus ribavirin. Cruelly, in people with a particular genetic make-up, even this nasty course of medication often doesn't work.

The newly approved antiviral drugs lead the way for many other therapies (page S5). But caution is in order. First, the new medications supplement — not replace — the current treatment. So patients will be subject to all the same side effects as before, plus possibly a few more. Moreover, as clinician and HCV activist Diana Sylvestre points out on page S11, there is a high risk that the virus will become resistant to the new drugs. Finally, on page S18 epidemiologist Brian Edlin argues US policy makers need to wake up to the lurking HCV threat, and take action. Meanwhile, Egypt is experiencing an HCV epidemic of greater intensity than that in the United States and Europe (page S12), exacerbated by the fact that the genotype of HCV in Egypt is rarely found elsewhere.

What’s Next for Hepatitis C

By Jessica Wapner

This Outlook was made possible by the financial support of Gilead Sciences, Inc., Merck and Boehringer Ingelheim. As always, Nature retains full responsibility for all editorial content.

Without question, the recent approvals of telaprevir (Vertex) and boceprevir (Merck) for the treatment of hepatitis C infection marks the beginning of a new time for hepatitis C. This advance is genuinely significant, and after all the me-too drugs and incremental gains we’ve all grown used to reading about, it’s exciting to see two medications that are making a real difference for a large portion of the 170 million people worldwide infected with the virus. The drugs are protease inhibitors; they work by blocking the enzyme that enables the virus to survive in a host.
And yet, much more remains. Here’s a look at what is still needed in the realm of hepatitis C care:
First, HCV comes in a variety of genotypes.
New classification rule identifies high-risk patients with variceal bleeding
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Most patients with acute variceal bleeding have a relatively low 6-week mortality risk after standard-of-care treatment, but those with high creatinine levels have a poor prognosis and therefore warrant aggressive intervention with early placement of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS).
That conclusion comes from a Spanish study, reported online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology on May 31.
The authors explain that after acute variceal bleeding, high-risk patients may benefit from an early decision for aggressive management while low-risk patients might be spared unnecessary interventions. However, the mortality risk among different subgroups of patients after currently recommended treatment with vasoactive drugs and endoscopic ligation is unknown.
To investigate, Dr. Salvador Augustin, with Hospital Universitari Vall d'Hebron in Barcelona, and colleagues analyzed outcomes in 162 cirrhotic patients with acute esophageal variceal bleeding treated with combined pharmacologic therapy (somatostatin plus antibiotics) and emergency endoscopic ligation.
Patients with Child-Pugh A severity or Child-Pugh B without active bleeding were classified as low risk; those with Child-Pugh B with active bleeding or Child-Pugh C disease were classified as high risk.
Among the 162 ligated patients, 23 (14%) rebled and 26 (16%) died in the first 6 weeks of follow-up, according to the report.
Stratified 6-week mortality was 7% in the low-risk group and 33% in the high-risk group. However, in the latter group, mortality was similar to the low-risk group at 8% among patients with creatinine levels <1.0 mg/dL, but was 46% among those with creatinine of 1.0 mg/dL or higher, Dr. Augustin and colleagues report.
They reiterate that early use of TIPS may lead to a change in the management of high-risk patients with acute variceal bleeding, and conclude, "In this observational study, we show that previous criteria to identify such patients may not be adequate, providing a new classification rule (Child-Pugh C with baseline creatinine >\= 1.0) to better identify a high-risk population in this setting, in order to optimize the use of TIPS in clinical practice and for research purposes."
Am J Gastroenterol 2011.
HCV Around The World

No check on drug companies fleecing hepatitis patients

PESHAWAR, June 9: The multinational pharmaceutical companies have been fleecing the hepatitis C patients for the last several years and there is still no check on them, doctors and patients say. “Majority of hepatitis C patients needs Interferon injections, which are usually given twice a week. A patient requires 72 injections to get fully recovered,” said a senior hepatologist. He said that the patients had been facing problems because price of the injection vary from shop to shop.
Some patients get the full dose (72 injections) for Rs45,000 while others buy the same for as low as Rs23,000, he said.
Interestingly, about 10 pharmaceutical companies have been marketing these injections and all offer different prices. The worst sufferers are the poor patients, who are unable to pay for the costly treatment of hepatitis C.
“I have paid Rs45,000 for a full dose of injections to a chemist in Peshawar. A man in my village has received the same injections by paying only Rs23,000,” said Jaffar Ali, a shopkeeper in Mardan. He said that he was a poor person and had borrowed the money from his neighbours.
Last year, the manufacturers of Interferon injection slashed the price from Rs72,000 to Rs45,000. “It means that these companies had been charging the patients exorbitant price from the past 10 years because now they are selling it at Rs45,000 and Rs23,000,” said a physician. It also shows the margin of profit being pocketed by the drug manufacturers from the past one decade, he said.
The patients visiting the Mercy Teaching Hospital, Kuwait Teaching Hospital and Prime Teaching Hospital – all affiliated with the Peshawar Medical College – are the beneficiaries of the lowest prices offered by the companies.
“We try to give financial benefit to all the patients. About 90 per cent of the patients belong to poor families and can not afford the expensive medication,” Dr Muhammad Subhan, the KTH medical superintendent, told this correspondent. He said that Interferon injections should be given on the prescription of a specialist doctor.
According to officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Hepatitis Control Programme about 10 per cent of the province`s population suffers from hepatitis C and the only treatment available for this is Interferon injection. Asked about the price difference, they said that fixation of drug prices was the domain of the federal government.
The price of another injection called Pegasys, which is also administered to the hepatitis C patients, was also reduced from Rs12,000 to Rs6,000, which shows how the MNCs have been fleecing the people.
Local pharmacists say that not only the MNCs but the distributors and chemists have also been earning a lot from sale of the hepatitis drugs.
They said that mostly the benefits were transferred by the pharmaceutical companies to the doctors and chemists, who prescribe and sell the medicines, respectively.

Grant To Pursue Innovative Research To Develop Personalized Medicine
10 June 2011
The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) was one of three winners in the Fonds de la recherche en sante du Quebec (FRSQ) competition 2011-2012. The RI-MUHC won in the category of Projects for...


Vertex CEO outlines Incivek marketing plan: No TV ads.
Boston Business Journal - by Julie M. Donnelly

Date: Thursday, June 9, 2011, 2:39pm EDT - Last Modified: Thursday, June 9, 2011, 4:00pm EDT

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: VRTX) CEO

Matthew Emmens doesn’t call the newly hired army of people who will sell the company’s freshly approved treatment for Hepatitis C, Incivek, salespeople or “drug reps.” He calls them “enablers,” people who will connect patients to the drug, which was found in one late-stage study to cure 79 percent of patients of a disease that is an epidemic among baby boomers.
In charting a course for Boston’s newest commercial pharmaceutical company, Emmens aims to change the language, and also the game, for a company that’s spent more than 20 years behind closed doors looking for cures. Vertex will move to two shiny new buildings on Boston’s Fan Pier in 2013, from its dank warren of 10 low-rise factory buildings near Central Square in Cambridge. In the meantime, it will also emerge from the shadows of peers like Genzyme Corp., now owned by French drug maker Sanofi, following a series of manufacturing missteps, and Biogen Idec, which this fall announced it would narrow its focus amid a major restructuring that claimed 650 jobs company-wide.

Vertex, meanwhile, has become a darling of the political establishment, adding 200 new Massachusetts jobs over the past year, with a commitment to add 500 more between now and 2015. The company will receive a total of $72 million in state and city incentives associated with the move and the job creation.
“I get a lot of calls from governors, some in states where I’ve put a headquarters before, who would like to have a growing business,” Emmens said, but that a number of factors, ...

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: VRTX) CEO Matthew Emmens doesn’t call the newly hired army of people who will sell the company’s freshly approved treatment for Hepatitis C, Incivek, salespeople or “drug reps.” He calls them “enablers,” people who will connect patients to the drug, which was found in one late-stage study to cure 79 percent of patients of a disease that is an epidemic among baby boomers.
In charting a course for Boston’s newest commercial pharmaceutical company, Emmens aims to change the language, and also the game, for a company that’s spent more than 20 years behind closed doors looking for cures. Vertex will move to two shiny new buildings on Boston’s Fan Pier in 2013, from its dank warren of 10 low-rise factory buildings near Central Square in Cambridge. In the meantime, it will also emerge from the shadows of peers like Genzyme Corp., now owned by French drug maker Sanofi, following a series of manufacturing missteps, and Biogen Idec, which this fall announced it would narrow its focus amid a major restructuring that claimed 650 jobs company-wide.
Vertex, meanwhile, has become a darling of the political establishment, adding 200 new Massachusetts jobs over the past year, with a commitment to add 500 more between now and 2015. The company will receive a total of $72 million in state and city incentives associated with the move and the job creation.
“I get a lot of calls from governors, some in states where I’ve put a headquarters before, who would like to have a growing business,” Emmens said, but that a number of factors, including the proximity to the airport, the incentives, the ability to design the new buildings, and the educated pool of workers here, gave Boston the edge. But he said, “In the end the shareholders don’t really care where you’re located.”
Integrating the new commercial team, which is currently siloed in one of the 10 buildings, has forced the longtime research and development company to be creative.
“When you bring in something different to an environment in nature, it develops antibodies. You don’t want that to happen, you don’t want (the commercial operation) to be a foreign object — to push it away or isolate it,” Emmens said. To that end, he launched two initiatives. First, Vertex hired outside consultants to invent a Vertex board game that includes all parts of the organization and takes employees through the process of getting a drug approved, including all the risk factors that could sink the drug, how to price it, etc. The goal is for the scientists to learn the business, and vice versa.
“There’s also an investment portion, they can only spend so much money,” Emmens said. Vertex itself, it should be noted, spent more than $4 billion between its launch and getting its first in-house drug approved on May 23.
Secondly, the scientists interviewed the sales candidates. If they weren’t truly interested in science, they didn’t get the job. It might seem obvious that those selling medicine should have a passion for it, but Emmens said it’s not always the case.
“If you look what pharma did over the past 15 years you see a lot of companies that brought in consumer goods people to be the head of marketing. I think that’s a real problem. This is not a consumer goods product.”
Emmens said there’s something else that’s a problem — direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs. The company doesn’t plan to run TV ads for Incivek.
“We are not a marketing company. Our mettle will be based on world-class science. Without that, there’s no place for a Vertex.”
Emmens says any ads will be for awareness of the disease and not for the drug itself. Vertex has launched a large Hepatitis C awareness campaign, called “Better to Know C,” which is running on the radio and on billboards in subways around the country, and began months before Incivek was approved. The goal is to decrease the number of Americans — estimated to be 3 million, or three-fourths of the total infected — who have the disease and don’t know their status. In addition, Vertex executives have said the complexity of the regimen — Incivek must be taken in concert with two other drugs — means the company will be involved in intensive education efforts with patients even after they are on therapy.
Emmens’ decisions not to do Incivek TV ads, and also to maintain a relatively small, 115-person sales team, is bold. After all, the company is going head-to-head with Emmens’ old employer, Merck and Co., whose Victrelis was approved by the FDA just days before Incivek. Emmens said of prospective patients, “I’d like them to go to their doctor. I think they’ll get the answer that I like.”
He might be right: Several analysts have said they expect Incivek, which is thought to have slightly better efficacy, will beat Merck’s drug. For instance, Joseph Schwartz, an analyst for Boston life science investment bank Leerink Swann, estimates Incivek will have a 2-to-1 market split over Victrelis.
All of this optimism about the company’s future potentially puts Vertex in the bulls-eye of potential acquirers, but Emmens said that’s not in the plan.
“You should always be an acquisition target, it says you are doing well,” he said. “You should always be more expensive than anyone is willing to pay. That’s success. We intend to be an independent, successful company.”

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Does It Work ?
Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 10:59
Does it work?", an online series by Dónal O'Mathúna in The Irish Times, explores the efficacy of herbal remedies frequently quoting Cochrane evidence, i.e. on ginko biloba (article, review), hawthorn (article, review) and vitamin B12 (article, review).
Just In Case You Missed It
Analysis finds mortality from all causes higher among hepatitis C-infected
Patients had higher risk of dying from both liver- and non-liver related causes
[EMBARGOED FOR JUNE 10, 2011] Although liver-related mortality among those infected with hepatitis C is well-documented, little is known about deaths in these patients that are not related to liver problems. A new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and now available online ( soughtto determine mortality from all causes, including liver- and non-liver related deaths among hepatitis C patients in the general U.S. population. The analysis found mortality from all causes to be higher in these patients.

An estimated 4 million adults in the U.S. tested positive for hepatitis C, according to the Third National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey, a large, nationally representative survey, conducted from 1988 to 1994. During a follow-up period of almost 15 years, 614 deaths occurred among 9,378 adults assessed in this study.

Among 203 people with chronic hepatitis C infection, 44 died, nine from liver-related causes. The remaining 35 deaths were due to HIV infection, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other causes. Compared to individuals who tested negative for hepatitis C, patients with chronic hepatitis C infection had more than a two-fold risk of dying from both liver- and non-liver related causes.

"This should reinforce the importance of preventive measures, particularly among individuals at-risk for acquiring the disease, as well as early diagnosis, and improving access to care for those already infected, even in the absence of liver disease," said the lead author of the study, Dr. Samer El-Kamary, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "While a hepatitis C infection itself may not be the cause of death, patients with the disease may be at a higher risk of dying due to other high-risk behaviors that may have also caused the infection. Furthermore, it is possible that other comorbidities like diabetes and cardiovascular disease could get worse if there is an underlying hepatitis C infection."
Dr. El-Kamary added, "Given the low cost for hepatitis C tests, perhaps it would be advisable to consider more liberal early screening of patients if there is any suspicion of infection so they can be referred for treatment as early as possible."

NOTE: The study is available online. It is embargoed until 12:01 a.m. EDT on Friday, June 10, 2011: All-Cause, Liver–, and Non–Liver-Related Mortality Among HCV-Infected Individuals in the General US Population

Founded in 1979, Clinical Infectious Diseases publishes clinical articles twice monthly in a variety of areas of infectious disease, and is one of the most highly regarded journals in this specialty. It is published under the auspices of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). Based in Arlington, Va., IDSA is a professional society representing more than 9,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases. For more information, visit

FDA Hepatitis Update - Labeling change for Intron A (Interferon alfa-2b) and PegIntron (Peginterferon alfa-2b)
On June 6, 2011, FDA approved a labeling change to the the WARNINGS and PRECAUTIONS: Neuropsychiatric Disorders subsection of both the Intron A (Interferon alfa-2b) and PegIntron (Peginterferon alfa-2b) labels to state that treatment with interferons may be associated with exacerbated symptoms of psychiatric disorders in patients with co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders.

Specifically, PegIntron or Intron A should be used with extreme caution in patients with a history of psychiatric disorders. Treatment with interferons may be associated with exacerbated symptoms of psychiatric disorders in patients with co-occurring psychiatric and substance use disorders.  If treatment with interferons is judged necessary in patients with prior history or existence of psychiatric condition or with history of substance use disorders, treatment requires individualized drug screening strategies and frequent psychiatric symptom monitoring.  Early intervention for re-emergence or development of neuropsychiatric symptoms and substance use is recommended.
Richard Klein
Office of Special Health Issues
Food and Drug Administration
Kimberly Struble
Division of Antiviral Drug Products
Food and Drug Administration

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Treatments For Hepatitis C; Boceprevir vs Telaprevir: What We Know and Don't Know

New Treatments for Chronic Hepatitis C Infection

 The newly approved HCV protease inhibitors boceprevir and telaprevir promise to revolutionize HCV treatment.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment will change dramatically with the FDA's recent approval of two new oral HCV protease inhibitors, boceprevir and telaprevir. When used in combination with current standard therapy (peginterferon and ribavirin [PR]), these new drugs substantially improve cure rates and often reduce the overall duration of therapy. Although data are still emerging, these new drugs are likely to benefit HIV-coinfected patients as well.

Boceprevir (Victrelis) was approved by the FDA on May 13, 2011, for the treatment of chronic HCV genotype 1 infection both in patients who are treatment-naive and in those with prior treatment failure.1 The approval was based on two large, manufacturer-sponsored, phase III, randomized, controlled trials.

Treatment-Naive Patients
In the SPRINT-2 trial,2 1097 treatment-naive patients with HCV genotype 1 infection (159 blacks; 938 nonblacks) underwent a 4-week lead-in period of PR and then received one of the following:
  • Boceprevir plus PR (B+PR) for 24 weeks, with an additional 20-week course of PR alone if HCV RNA was detected between weeks 8 and 24 (the response-guided therapy [RGT] group)
  • B+PR for 44 weeks (the fixed-duration group)
  • PR plus placebo for 44 weeks (the control group)
In all three treatment arms, PR consisted of peginterferon α-2b and ribavirin.
Among nonblacks, sustained virologic response (SVR) rates were significantly higher in the boceprevir groups (67%–68%) than in the control group (40%). Blacks had lower SVR rates in all three groups, but B+PR still outperformed PR in this population; SVR rates were 42% in the RGT group, 53% in the fixed-duration group, and 23% among controls. Overall, 44% of patients in the RGT group had undetectable HCV RNA from week 8 to week 24 and therefore received shorter-duration therapy (28 weeks total).

Previously Treated Patients
The RESPOND-2 trial3 involved 403 patients with HCV genotype 1 infection who had a partial response to — or a relapse following — prior PR therapy. Of note, so-called prior null-responders (patients who had not previously achieved a ≥2 log IU/mL drop in HCV RNA by week 12) were not included in this trial. Patients received 4 weeks of lead-in therapy with PR (which, in this trial, consisted of peginterferon α-2b and ribavirin). Treatment arms were the same as in SPRINT-2, except that here, the RGT arm involved B+PR for 32 weeks beyond lead-in, with an additional 12 weeks of PR alone if HCV RNA was detectable at week 8. SVR rates were significantly higher in the boceprevir groups (59% in the RGT group; 66% in the fixed-duration group) than in the control group (21%).

Boceprevir should be prescribed only in combination with PR and should be taken at a dose of 800 mg (four 200-mg capsules) three times daily with food. PR should be administered alone for a 4-week lead-in period. Response-guided therapy is recommended for patients without cirrhosis who are treatment-naive or who have had partial response to, or relapse following, prior interferon/ribavirin therapy. Guidelines for treatment duration in such patients, as recommended in the package insert,1 are shown in Table 1.
Because patients with compensated cirrhosis have relatively poor results with therapy, the recommended boceprevir-based treatment for this population is 4 weeks of PR followed by 44 weeks of B+PR. In addition, 44 weeks of B+PR should be considered for previously untreated patients who have a poor response to lead-in PR, defined as a <1 log IU/mL reduction in HCV RNA at week 4. Although the efficacy of boceprevir in prior null-responders has not been studied, if treatment is considered for such an individual, 4 weeks of PR followed by 44 weeks of B+PR should be given.
B+PR treatment should be stopped based on futility in any patient with an HCV RNA level ≥100 IU/mL at treatment week 12 or confirmed detectable HCV RNA at treatment week 24.

Boceprevir is a strong inhibitor of CYP3A4/5 and should not be administered with drugs that are highly affected by this pathway, such as alfuzosin, rifampin, simvastatin, carbamazepine, phenytoin, and oral midazolam.

In phase II and III clinical trials,1 49% of patients in the boceprevir groups had hemoglobin values <10 g/dL, compared with 28% of those in the control groups. Use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents to treat anemia was more frequent in the boceprevir groups (43%) than in the control groups (24%). However, the rate of study-drug discontinuation because of anemia was low (1%). Decreased neutrophil and platelet counts were more common in the boceprevir groups, as was dysgeusia (35%–44% in boceprevir groups vs. 11%–16% in control groups).

Telaprevir (Incivek) was approved by the FDA on May 23, 2011, based on data from manufacturer-sponsored trials in treatment-naive and treatment-experienced patients chronically infected with HCV genotype 1.4 In these trials, PR consisted of peginterferon α-2a and ribavirin.

Treatment-Naive Patients
In the phase III ADVANCE trial,5 1088 treatment-naive patients were randomized to one of three treatments (none of which involved a lead-in period):
  • Telaprevir plus PR (T+PR) for 8 weeks, followed by PR alone. Patients who had extended rapid virologic response (eRVR; defined as undetectable HCV RNA at weeks 4 and 12) stopped PR at week 24, whereas those without eRVR continued therapy until week 48.
  • T+PR for 12 weeks, followed by PR alone. Patients with eRVR stopped PR at week 24, whereas those without eRVR continued therapy until week 48.
  • PR for 48 weeks (control group)
SVR rates were 69% and 75% in the 8- and 12-week telaprevir groups, compared with 44% in the control group.5 Approximately 58% of patients who received telaprevir achieved eRVR and were eligible for shorter treatment (24 weeks total).6
In the phase III ILLUMINATE study,7 researchers examined two treatment durations among patients who had achieved eRVR with a 12-week course of T+PR, followed by PR alone. In all, 322 patients were randomized at week 20 to receive a total of 24 or 48 weeks of therapy. SVR rates were 92% and 88%, respectively, demonstrating noninferiority of the 24-week regimen in this patient group.

Previously Treated Patients
In the phase III REALIZE trial,8 662 patients with prior PR treatment failure (i.e., relapse, partial response, or null response) were randomized to 48 weeks of therapy with one of the following approaches:
  • T+PR for 12 weeks, followed by PR alone for 36 weeks
  • Lead-in PR for 4 weeks, followed by T+PR for 12 weeks, and then PR alone for 32 weeks
  • PR for 48 weeks (control group)
SVR rates in the two telaprevir groups were similar to one another (64% and 66%, suggesting no benefit to the lead-in period) and were significantly higher than the rate in the control group (17%). In the telaprevir groups, SVR rates were approximately 86% in previous relapsers, 57% in previous partial-responders, and 31% in prior null-responders.

Telaprevir should be prescribed only in combination with PR and should be taken at a dose of 750 mg (two 375-mg tablets) three times daily with food. It should be administered for 12 weeks in all patients, followed by PR alone for an additional 12 or 36 weeks, depending on viral response and prior response status. Guidelines for treatment duration, as recommended in the package insert,4 are shown in Table 2.
Prior partial-responders should receive T+PR for the first 12 weeks, followed by an additional 36 weeks of PR alone. Treatment-naive patients with cirrhosis who have undetectable HCV RNA at weeks 4 and 12 may also benefit from an additional 36 weeks of PR. If therapy is considered for prior null-responders, T+PR for 12 weeks followed by an additional 36 weeks of PR should be given.
Therapy should be stopped in any patient with an HCV RNA level ≥1000 IU/mL at treatment week 4 or week 12 or confirmed detectable HCV RNA at treatment week 24.

Telaprevir inhibits CYP3A and should not be administered with drugs that are highly affected by this pathway, including alfuzosin, rifampin, HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (atorvastatin, lovastatin, simvastatin), and oral midazolam.

The main adverse effects of telaprevir are rash, anemia, nausea and other gastrointestinal symptoms, dysgeusia, and anorectal discomfort. In clinical trials, rash developed in 56% of patients who received T+PR, compared with 34% who received PR alone. Severe rash was reported in 4% of those receiving T+PR, versus <1% of those who received PR alone.4 Patients with mild to moderate rashes may continue therapy with careful monitoring. Telaprevir should be stopped if a rash progresses and becomes severe, or if systemic symptoms develop.
PR treatment is associated with decreased hemoglobin concentrations, and the addition of telaprevir is associated with an additional decrease. In clinical trials, 36% of patients who received T+PR had hemoglobin values <10 g/dL, compared with 17% of those who received PR alone.4 (Use of growth factors — allowed in the boceprevir studies — was not permitted in the telaprevir trials.9) However, the rate of telaprevir discontinuation because of anemia was low: Among patients receiving T+PR, 4% stopped telaprevir, and 1% discontinued T+PR.

Boceprevir vs. Telaprevir: What We Know and Don't Know
  • A 4-week lead-in period of PR is given with boceprevir but not with telaprevir.
  • In treatment-naive patients with genotype 1 HCV infection, both boceprevir and telaprevir improve SVR rates and, for many patients, reduce the duration of treatment. Neither drug is indicated for treatment of non–genotype 1 HCV infection.
  • In previously treated patients, telaprevir improves SVR rates in both prior responders and prior null-responders. Boceprevir has been studied only in patients who had at least a partial response to PR therapy in the past — and has been shown to improve SVR rates in this population.
  • Both boceprevir and telaprevir are approved for three-times-daily dosing, and the pill burden is considerable. Telaprevir may be effective when dosed at 1125 mg twice daily,10 but larger studies are needed.
  • In a retrospective subgroup analysis of the boceprevir phase III trials, patients with the favorable IL28B genotype (C/C) had higher response rates than those with unfavorable genotypes. This was particularly true among previously untreated patients.1 In a retrospective subgroup analysis of the telaprevir trials, patients with any IL28B genotype appeared to have higher SVR rates with T+PR than with PR alone.4
  • A head-to-head trial comparing the drugs has not been performed, so we do not yet know which one is better.
Drug Resistance: Stay Tuned
Not surprisingly, emergence of drug-resistance mutations has been observed in patients who have received these agents. Drug resistance may become undetectable after HCV protease inhibitors are stopped, but we do not yet know whether these resistant variants would reemerge if therapy were restarted.

Improving HCV Therapy for HIV-Coinfected Patients
HCV treatment in HIV-coinfected individuals has traditionally been challenging, given their low rates of SVR. However, emerging data from a recent phase II, randomized trial demonstrate that telaprevir may improve virologic responses in HIV-infected patients with genotype 1 HCV infection.11 In that study, 60 patients were treated with PR plus telaprevir or placebo for 12 weeks, followed by PR alone to complete 48 weeks of therapy. In an interim analysis involving 59 patients, 70% of those in the telaprevir group had undetectable HCV RNA at week 4, compared with 0% in the control group. At week 12, the numbers were 68% versus 14%. Table 3 shows results stratified by receipt of antiretroviral therapy (ART); notably, only those receiving tenofovir/FTC/efavirenz or tenofovir/FTC + ritonavir-boosted atazanavir were eligible for the portion of the study examining responses in ART-treated patients. Currently, neither telaprevir nor boceprevir is approved for treating chronic HCV infection in HIV-positive patients. Although these findings suggest that telaprevir may be beneficial, longer-term results are still pending.
Little is known about drug interactions between HCV protease inhibitors and ART. Use of efavirenz reduces telaprevir levels; as a result, in the ongoing phase II study summarized above, the dose of telaprevir was increased to 1125 mg every 8 hours in the efavirenz group. In healthy-volunteer studies, ritonavir-boosted atazanavir had less effect on telaprevir exposure than did other HIV protease inhibitors.12 Coadministration of efavirenz reduces trough concentrations of boceprevir, but the clinical implications are not clear.13 Interactions between boceprevir and commonly used HIV protease inhibitors have not yet been reported.

Conclusions and Future Challenges
Use of boceprevir or telaprevir together with PR will revolutionize HCV treatment, leading to improved outcomes and a shorter duration of treatment for many patients. As we take stock of this breathtaking advance, we should also pause to consider some unanswered questions:
  • How will clinicians choose between these new agents?
  • Do all patients need the new drugs, or can some patients, such as those with favorable host and viral factors, be treated with PR alone?
  • Does boceprevir require the 4-week PR lead-in period for maximum effectiveness?
  • Should prior null-responders be treated with telaprevir-based therapy — which is expected to have a response rate of approximately 30% — or should they wait for development of better therapies in the future?
  • How should liver-transplant patients with graft HCV reinfection be treated?
  • How should patients with decompensated cirrhosis, in whom PR therapy is contraindicated, be treated?
Furthermore, these drugs are not yet approved for HIV/HCV-coinfected patients, and we have only preliminary information from one study in this important group. Therefore, if possible, it is worth waiting until additional data are available before using these agents in coinfected individuals.
Finally, boceprevir and telaprevir are administered with peginterferon/ribavirin, and patients who cannot tolerate these medications will not benefit from the newly approved drugs yet. Fortunately, many new anti-HCV drugs — including polymerase and NS5A inhibitors — are being investigated in clinical trials. Hopefully, they will eliminate interferon from our HCV toolbox in the future.

— Isaac I. Bogoch, MD, and Rajesh T. Gandhi, MD
Dr. Bogoch is a Fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He reports no conflicts of interest.
Published in Journal Watch HIV/AIDS Clinical Care May 27, 2011


1. Victrelis (boceprevir) capsules [prescribing information]. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck; 2011. (

2. Poordad F et al. for the SPRINT-2 investigators. Boceprevir for untreated chronic HCV genotype 1 infection. N Engl J Med 2011 Mar 31; 364:1195.

3. Bacon BR et al. for the HCV RESPOND-2 investigators. Boceprevir for previously treated chronic HCV genotype 1 infection. N Engl J Med 2011 Mar 31; 364:1207.

4. Telaprevir (Incivek) capsules [prescribing information]. Cambridge, MA: Vertex; 2011. (

5. Jacobson IM et al. Telaprevir in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin in genotype 1 HCV treatment-naïve patients: Final results of phase 3 ADVANCE study. Hepatology 2010 Oct; 52(S1):427A.

6. Hofmann WP and Zeuzem S. A new standard of care for the treatment of chronic HCV infection. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2011 May; 8:257.

7. Sherman KE et al. Telaprevir in combination with peginterferon alfa2a and ribavirin for 24 or 48 weeks in treatment-naïve genotype 1 HCV patients who achieved an extended rapid viral response: Final results of phase 3 ILLUMINATE study. Hepatology 2010 Oct; 52(S1):401A.

8. 65% of people whose prior treatment for hepatitis C was unsuccessful achieved SVR (viral cure) with telaprevir-based therapy in phase 3 REALIZE study [press release]. Cambridge, MA. Vertex; Sep 7 , 2010. (

9. Pawlotsky J-M. The results of phase III clinical trials with telaprevir and boceprevir presented at the Liver Meeting 2010: A new standard of care for hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection, but with issues still pending. Gastroenterol 2011 Mar; 140:746.

10. Marcellin P et al. Telaprevir is effective given every 8 or 12 hours with ribavirin and peginterferon alfa-2a or -2b to patients with chronic hepatitis C. Gastroenterology 2011 Feb; 140:459.

11. Sulkowski M et al. Interim analysis of a phase 2a double-blind study of TVR in combination with pegIFN-alfa2a and RBV in HIV/HCV co-infected patients. 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Boston , Feb/Mar 2011. Abstract 146LB. (

12. van Heeswijk R et al. Pharmacokinetic interactions between ARV agents and the investigational HCV protease inhibitor TVR in healthy volunteers. 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Boston , Feb/Mar 2011. Abstract 119. (

13. Kasserra C et al. Clinical pharmacology of BOC: Metabolism, excretion, and drug-drug interactions. 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Boston , Feb/Mar 2011. Abstract 118. (

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Incivek should be available in pharmacies now

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated
(VRTX) announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its Incivek (telaprevir) tablets for some patients with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C with compensated liver disease and/or cirrhosis (liver scarring). Incivek (pronounced in-SEE-veck) was approved for people who are new to treatment and those treated previously without being cured. On May 13, the FDA also approved Victrelis (boceprevir) by Merck (MRK). These two are the first hepatitis C drugs in almost a decade to win FDA approval.

Vertex stated that Incivek should be available in pharmacies now. The company also introduced a comprehensive financial assistance and patient support program to help people who might not otherwise be able to afford the treatment get it and said that more information is available on its Website.
Vertex ran three Phase 3 studies on INCIVEK, indicating people who received it in combination treatment achieved significantly higher rates of sustained viral response (SVR) or cure compared with those who received pegylated-interferon and ribavirin alone, regardless of prior treatment experience. The Phase 3 comparison information from Vertex's release shows a striking improvement in SVR/Cure rates:
Patient Assistance Program

Monday, May 30, 2011

Two New Drugs To Treat Hepatitis C And My Doctor

Hello Folks,
Published today online is an article from the Detroit Free Press which mentions my hepatologist Dr. Stuart Gordon. The article written by PATRICIA ANSTETT  touches on both new FDA approved drugs to treat hepatitis c, victrelis and incivek. This blog has mentioned the importance of finding a physician who specialize in treating HCV patients and is familiar with these new FDA approved drugs. Adherence is essential and the treatment regimen is complex. If you're from this area (Detroit/Novi) and looking for a physician I highly recommend Dr. Gordon. This physician is remarkable, published, attentive, kind and compassionate. It has been ten years since I achieved  SVR, but  I still recall sitting in his office feeling pretty much shocked when we were discussing how long treatment would be and what it would consist of. Its funny what we really fear when it comes to this disease, it came in steps for me. The first hurdle would be the ever looming liver biopsy. When he suggested it, I agreed, but only if it wasn't performed by a resident, and I wanted drugs, I didn't want to feel a thing.
I was so scared, newly diagnosed, I thought I was going to die from HCV before my next birthday, my children just lost their father a year earlier to this disease. However, because we were divorced I wasn't told it was from HCV. When I found out (sadly after reading his death certificate, I was tested, positive for HCV.) my search began for a doctor, this all transpired two weeks prior to making this appointment with Dr. Gorden. I remember looking up HCV in a medical book in the library, it contained one sentence which only alluded to the fact HCV was the most serious of all the hepatitis viruses. Nothing more, nothing less. At the time I had no idea I was about to embark on the ride of my life, but safely under the care of Dr. Gorden.   
Three weeks later the day came for my liver biopsy and I wondered if he would remember " no resident", in walked Dr.Gordon. I was one fortunate patient. He administered my demerol, and I started to relax. Before the procedure I asked him if he was nervous, he laughed and said; "Not as nervous as you are.", I love this guy folks. This was a busy man, in fact at the time he was running a few clinical trials.  He published numerous papers on interferon back then, you can read a handful of his papers here , here, and here. In fact that's how I found him, I read his work online.

At the time I had a dear friend who needed a second opinion, I suggested Dr. Gorden and soon she made an appointment. The prognosis wasn't good, Dr. Gorden gently advised her to start the process of  putting together a transplant team, she needed a new liver. At the time she had no idea how sick she was, none of us knew. A family member told me later Dr. Gordon was concerned of the probability she would die from acute liver failure before an organ was available. She was listed and because of a rare blood type a liver did not come in time. Even with Dr. Gorden's intervention we lost her quickly . If any of you are familiar with ESLD its can be a long painful death, in my friends case it was acute. With these new drugs now FDA approved, this disease can now be treated successfully in individuals who failed prior therapy. Yes, sadly enough it comes too late for many of our friends, but hope is now alive for the many thousands waiting to treat again. These brave people have waited a decade for these new drugs. Now hope is within their reach.

Dr. Stuart Gordon

2 new drug treatments have cured thousands of liver disease

Two newly approved hepatitis C drugs may bring a cure to thousands of Americans not helped by previous treatments. But the drugs are costly and can cause unwanted side effects.
The drugs --Victrelis and Incivek-- have generated excitement among many of the 170,000 Americans who are diagnosed each year with the liver disease because the treatments might help those who haven't responded to other drugs.

"There's going to be a great demand," said Dr. Stuart Gordon, chief of hepatology at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital. "A lot of prior non-responders will give it a try again."
Some studies show the drugs can cure as many as four out of every five patients who take them along with two conventional medicines.

Gordon said research suggests people more recently diagnosed with hepatitis C may benefit most from the drugs.
An estimated 4 million Americans have hepatitis C, though many are unaware of it because the virus is slow-growing and can linger for years without symptoms.

The drugs recently were approved for genotype 1 hepatitis C, the most common strain of six types.
Merck, manufacturer of Victrelis, said the drug will cost $26,000 to $48,400 for a course of treatment, depending on how long a patient takes it.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, manufacturer of Incivek, said its drug will cost $49,200 for a course of treatment. The manufacturers have programs to help many uninsured or low- to middle-income patients get the drugs for free or at reduced costs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which, as the state's largest health insurer, often sets reimbursement trends in Michigan, is reviewing whether it will cover either drug, said spokeswoman Helen Stojic.
Still unclear, Gordon said, is whether patients who aren't helped by the new drugs will develop resistance to similar medicines............ Continue Reading.........

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Video/Vertex Incivek Patient Steve Goodwin On Telaprevir

At SFGate is a video interview with Steve Goodwin a patient who underwent HCV therapy with Incivek, better known as telaprevir. Steve is a genotype 1 null responder, see his video below.
You can read Mr. Goodwins paper on Incivek here.

Package Inserts for Peginterferon alfa and Ribavirin

Patient Assistance Program
INCIVEK/Telaprevir and VICTRELIS (Boceprevir) Patient Assistance Programs

FDA May 23, 2011 Teleconference Briefing on Direct Acting Antivirals, Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir) transcript
New two part video from Melissa Palmer, M.D. on Telaprevir (Vertex Pharmaceuticals) & Boceprevir (Merck), the new protease inhibitor treatments for hepatitis C (HCV).
From The AIDS Beacon
This article is first in a two-part series that will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of two drugs, boceprevir and telaprevir, which are being developed for hepatitis C. Part 1 discusses the efficacy of the two drugs in clinical trials. Part 2 discusses the complications and side effects for each drug

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Telaprevir/Boceprevir: New therapy for hepatitis C sparks debate of who to treat first

Arrival of direct antiviral agent therapy for hepatitis C sparks debate of who to treat first

Scarcity of resources calls for equitable distribution system for novel treatment

For many patients with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), direct antiviral agents (DAA) offer a potential cure for the disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved two new DAAs, telaprevir and boceprevir, and with that clinicians must now decide who should be the first to receive this treatment. Discussion of this timely topic is now available in the June issue of Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates up to 170,000 million individuals worldwide are infected with chronic HCV. In the U.S., HCV is the leading cause of liver-related mortality and most common cause for liver transplantation. Medical evidence has shown that for the past ten years response rates to pegylated interferon and ribavirin treatment have been stagnant, with less than half of patients achieving a sustained virologic response. Now with the introduction of new DAA therapy, it is expected to significantly improve virus clearance rates, particularly in patients with genotype 1, compared to the current standard of care.
"The availability of DAA therapy will forever change the landscape of HCV," explains Andrew Aronsohn, M.D., from the University of Chicago Medical center and co-author of the current paper. "We will now be able to cure patients of HCV disease who we were unable to cure in the past." However, as the authors note, the medical breakthrough with DAAs is coupled with resource scarcity and an equitable distribution based upon medical need is essential.

DAA therapy and its promise to improve efficacy has been well publicized for a number of years, prompting clinicians and patients to defer standard care in cases where there was a low risk of HCV progressing to severe liver disease. The authors point out that in one large study of 4084 patients evaluated for HCV therapy with interferon and ribavirin, of those that declined therapy more than half did so in anticipation of more effective therapy.

The advent of DAAs will likely create a surge in requests to initiate treatment given the number of patients who deferred treatment, along with those patients who failed to respond to standard HCV regiments. The authors performed a time analysis study at their institution to understand the time needed to treat patients with DAA therapy. They found that on average, a health care provider could initiate therapy on three patients each week, and at least 500 requests for evaluation of HCV therapy are anticipated during the first few weeks of DAA availability. "Current staffing will be unable to meet the demands of all HCV patients requesting treatment," concluded co-author, Donald Jensen, M.D. "We propose a plan to educate patients and triage therapy to the neediest patients first, thereby fulfilling the moral framework of distributive justice."

This study is published in Hepatology. Media wishing to receive a PDF of the article may contact
Full citation: Article: "Distributive Justice and the Arrival of Direct Acting Antivirals. Who Should be First in Line?" Andrew Aronsohn and Donald Jensen. Hepatology; Published Online: April 21, 2011 (DOI: 10.1002/hep.24374); Print Issue Date: June 2011.
About the Journal
Hepatology is the premier publication in the field of liver disease, publishing original, peer-reviewed articles concerning all aspects of liver structure, function and disease. Each month, the distinguished Editorial Board monitors and selects only the best articles on subjects such as immunology, chronic hepatitis, viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, genetic and metabolic liver diseases and their complications, liver cancer, and drug metabolism. Hepatology is published on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). For more information, please visit .
About Wiley-Blackwell
Wiley-Blackwell is the international scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly publishing business of John Wiley & Sons, with strengths in every major academic and professional field and partnerships with many of the world's leading societies. Wiley-Blackwell publishes nearly 1,500 peer-reviewed journals and 1,500+ new books annually in print and online, as well as databases, major reference works and laboratory protocols. For more information, please visit or our new online platform, Wiley Online Library (, one of the world's most extensive multidisciplinary collections of online resources, covering life, health, social and physical sciences, and humanities.

NICE’s next round of drug appraisals is set to include two new hepatitis C drugs

NICE’s next round of drug appraisals is set to include two new hepatitis C drugs - Merck Sharpe and Dohme’s Victrelis and Johnson & Johnson’s telaprevir.

Neither of the drugs is yet licensed in Europe but if they are they may meet a pressing unmet medical need for more effective hepatitis C treatments and NICE is already lining up to assess them.
Victrelis is set to be the first on the market, having just been recommended for European approval, while J&J’s telaprevir could be licensed in Europe by the end of the year.
If approved the drugs will be among six treatments Ministers have referred to NICE to appraise.
NICE said it will assess Victrelis for use in previously untreated genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients – the licensed indication it is seeking in Europe.
It will also look to appraise Victrelis for previously treated patients who have used the NICE approved treatments ribavirin and Roche’s Pegasys (peginterferon alfa).
Telaprevir, recently approved in the US as Incivek, would also be appraised for previously untreated genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C and previously treated with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir) transcript; FDA May 23, 2011 Teleconference Briefing on Direct Acting Antivirals

Worth Reading June 3 2011

FDA May 23, 2011 Teleconference Briefing on Direct Acting Antivirals, Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir) transcript
On May 23, 2011, FDA held a telephone briefing to discuss two Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) with health care providers and patient advocates having an interest in treatment for hepatitis C. The call was intended to provide an overview of the safety and efficacy data and complexity of dosing regimens, and respond to questions about the use of these recently approved protease inhibitors, indicated as part of combination drug therapy, for the treatment of hepatitis C.
The call was initiated in response to comments at the April 27 and 28, 2011 FDA Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee meeting to consider data related to marketing applications for Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir), suggesting that additional information would be helpful in understanding the use of these drugs in clinical care.
A record of the teleconference (approximately 50 minutes) is being made available in either of two formats:
Written Transcript
Download Audio Recording Podcast (22 MB)
FDA May 23, 2011 Teleconference Briefing on Direct Acting Antivirals, Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir)
Moderator: Richard Klein
May 23, 2011
3:30 pm EDT

Richard Klein: Good afternoon everyone. This is Richard Klein from the FDA’s Office of Special Health Issues, and I’d like to thank you for joining us this afternoon.

The purpose of today’s call is to update you about two direct acting anti-viral drugs to treat hepatitis C discussed at a meeting of the FDA Antiviral Advisory Committee on April 27 and 28.

At that meeting stakeholders made it evident that they would benefit from added guidance from FDA about complex treatment regimens described during the committee discussions and about possible adverse events associated with the antiviral treatment of hepatitis C. Today’s briefing is a response to those comments. Before we get started, I would like to briefly review how we will proceed.

With me in the room are Dr. Debra Birnkrant, Director of the FDA’s Division of Antiviral Products and Dr. Jeffrey Murray, Deputy Director of the Division and they will provide an overview of the data supporting the safety and effectiveness of these drugs to treat hepatitis C.

Immediately following the discussion, we will open the lines for your questions. Your phones will be on mute during the presentation. Prior to the start of the question-and-answer session, the operator will provide instructions on how to ask questions of FDA’s experts. Please be aware that the teleconference is being recorded for playback, so please state your name prior to joining the conversation. If you are asking a question, please be sure to speak clearly and directly into your telephone.

Before we begin the overview I have the extreme pleasure of introducing Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Hamburg.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg: Thank you, Richard. I’m very pleased that I have the opportunity to join you and a very talented team of medical reviewers from FDA’s Division of Antiviral Drugs today to discuss the FDA’s recent approval of Victrelis, also known as Boceprevir and Incivek or Telaprevir; two direct acting antiviral drugs that represent a new direction in the treatment of hepatitis C and a significant improvement over the current standard of care.

These are two new innovative products that are worthy of notice and will make a difference literally saving lives. It’s also worth noting that today’s approval of Incivek represents the 15th new drug approved in just the first five months of this year.

I want to take this moment to congratulate Dr. Janet Woodcock, Director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research; Dr. John Jenkins, Director of the Office of New Drugs in The Center for Drugs Evaluation and Research, and their staff for all the work in reaching decisions in a timely manner, ensuring patient access to safe and effective new treatments.

A few short weeks ago FDA’s Antiviral Drugs Advisory Committee, one of several committees comprised of medical experts and community advocates, met to discuss both of these drugs. I want to thank that committee for the recommendations which unanimously voted to recommend approval of both drugs as well as to thank and congratulate the companies responsible for developing Incivek and Victrelis and the FDA staff for their diligence in completing these applications expeditiously ensuring that patients have access to highly effective new drugs as quickly as possible.

Today truly represents a great day for the more than 3 million American men and women currently living with chronic hepatitis C and the millions more living with this often difficult to treat disease worldwide.

Viral hepatitis continues to a leading infectious cause of death in the United States and many people don’t even realize they’re infected.

I want to commend many of the patient groups and healthcare organizations participating on today’s call who’s done an exceptional job raising awareness and encouraging millions of individuals at risk to go get tested.

Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services - HHS - announced an action plan which most of you are probably familiar with by now titled Combating the Silent Epidemic, US Department Health and Human Services action plan for the prevention, care, and treatment of viral hepatitis.

The report outlines the comprehensive action plan to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, creates more opportunities to train health professionals to diagnose, treat, and vaccinate for hepatitis A and B and ultimately save lives and it builds upon the new Health Insurance Reform law to improve patient access to comprehensive viral hepatitis-related prevention and treatment services through expanded coverage.

The approval of these two new drugs will no doubt factor into this plan moving forward and their availability today is a testament to the hard work and dedication of academic researchers, diligent companies willing to invest in areas where existing therapies have failed or only provided temporary relief for patients, and an FDA staff willing to go the extra mile to ensure that patients have access to safe and effective new drugs.

As someone who has spent most of my career working on infectious disease issues and with first-hand experience treating and combating deadly infections, the significance of these approvals is not lost on me.

Before I turn it over to Dr. Debra Birnkrant whose division was not only responsible to the approval of these two drugs, but the approval this past Friday also of Edurant or Rilpivirine; another new treatment option for patients whose not received treatment for HIV infections.

I want to thank all of you on the phone for taking the time to join us in this call. Your continued support and engagement with FDA is essential to our mission. We are a regulatory agency that takes very seriously the science-based, data driven decisions that we make for and on behalf of the American people and beyond. All aspects of our mission are crucial to the health of individuals and the public health. I know that the work of organizations like all of yours is crucial too.

So with that, I’ll now turn the call over to Dr. Debra Birnkrant. Thank you very much.

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: Thank you, Dr. Hamburg. Good afternoon. I’d like to thank Dr. Hamburg for her opening comments that set the stage for the stakeholders meeting where Dr. Jeffrey Murray, Deputy Director of the Division of Antiviral Products and I will be sharing some of the details about the approvals of two new direct acting antivirals, Telaprevir and Boceprevir for use in combination with pegylated interferon and Rilpivirine for the treatment of genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C in adult patients.

As I wrote my memorandum in support of the approval of these DAAs, this time reminds me of the mid-1990s when we approved various antiretrovirals for the HIV infected population and the impact those approvals have had on patients’ lives. We expect to see a similar impact with the use of these new therapies in patients with chronic hepatitis C. It is truly an exciting time.

With that, I’d like to start with additional background and some concepts because we will be using these terms during our presentation. I also recommend that you review the approved prescribing information because we will not be able to go into detail in every aspect of these drugs.

To begin with as was mentioned chronic hepatitis C is both a global and domestic problem with 170 million estimated to be infected worldwide and approximately 3 million infected in the United States.

Of the 5.6 million veterans in veteran's healthcare in 2008, 2.6 had a diagnosis of chronic hepatitis C. Although the incidents of infection in the United States is decreasing, chronic hepatitis C related complications are increasing such as psorosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

With the aging of the infected population more liver-related complications are expected in the next 10 to 20 years without the use of potent antiviral therapies. I’d also like to mention and underline that chronic hepatitis C is already the most common reason for liver transplantation.

Beginning with some definitions that are crucial to understanding how to properly use these products. The naïve population is a population described as a population who is receiving no prior therapy for hepatitis C including interferon or pegylated interferon monotherapy.

The no responder population is one that has had less than a (two log) reduction in HCV RNA at week 12 of a pegylated interferon Ribavirin regimen. A partial responder has had greater than or equal to a (two log) reduction in HCV RNA at week 12, but has not achieved HCV RNA undetectable at the end of treatment. And a responder relapser is one that has had HCV RNA undetectable at the end of treatment with a pegylated interferon based regimen, but HCV RNA detectable within 24 weeks of treatment follow up. This group is most closely related to the naïve population with regards to interferon responsiveness.

Additional definitions that are important. A rapid virologic response or RVR is one that is an undetectable HCV RNA at week 4 and an extended RVR or ERVR is an undetectable HCV RNA at weeks 4 and 12. Whether a sustained virologic response or SVR 24, we view this as a validated endpoint specified as absence of detectable HCV RNA in serum six months after completion of therapy. It’s the best indicator of successful therapy of chronic hepatitis C achieving an SVR is associated with fewer liver-related complications, less progression to hepatic carcinoma and both fewer liver-related deaths and improvement in all cause mortality.

The standard of care currently prior to these two approvals was use of pegylated interferon with Ribavirin. The treatment duration was for 48 weeks genotype 1 and 24 weeks genotypes 2 and 3. Response rate averaged approxmately 50% with a range of as well as 20%, it was high as 80% and this depends upon multiple factors such as HCV genotype, IL28B status, race, viral load, etcetera.

It’s most important to note that there are significant toxicities already seen with the standard of care. However, the benefit outweighed the risks for those products namely pegylated interferon and Ribavirin.

Before I turn this over to Dr. Jeff Murray who will describe the approval package related to Boceprevir, I wanted to mention response guided therapy, which is a treatment algorithm individually treatment based on virologic response. There are goals RGP or response guidance therapy and they are to shorten therapy if possible and those who exhibit favorable early viral kinetics and to identify subjects who are unlikely to have a response to lessen side effects, the emergence of resistance, and to decrease costs. And with that, I’d like to turn this over to Dr. Jeff Murray.
Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Thanks, Dr. Birnkrant. I’ll now give an overview of some of the highlights in the Victrelis (Boceprevir) label. I’ll refer to the name of the drug as Victrelis from here on out This was approved on May 13, a week ago Friday for 200 mg. capsules and Victrelis is a hepatitis C protease inhibitor. I want to say that these protease inhibitors for hepatitis C are distinct from HIV protease inhibitors. There’s no cross activity or cross resistance expected.

The indication for Boceprevir Victrelis is for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 infection in combination with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin which are referred to as PR in adult patients with compensated liver disease, but including psorosis for those who are previously untreated or have failed previous PR therapy. So as I said, Victrelis must not be used as monotherapy. The efficacy of Victrelis has not been studied in patients who had previously received Victrelis or another protease inhibitor.

Victrelis in combination with PR has not been studied in patients documented to be historical non-responders as Dr. Birnkrant defined as less than a two log decline in HCV RNA by treatment week 12. But the clinical studies of Victrelis did include patients who were poorly interferon responsive. Subjects with less than a half a log decline in viral load at treatment week 4 during the lead in period of these protocols which I’ll describe with PR alone are predicted to be no responders and these patients appear to have a substantial treatment benefit with Victrelis.

An important usage comment is that poorly interferon responsive patients who were treated with Victrelis in combination with PR have a lower likelihood of achieving an SVR compared to those who are more interferon responsive and also with a lower SVR rate comes a higher rate of detection of resistance associated substitutions upon treatment failure.

The dose of Victrelis is 800 mg. administered three times a day every seven to nine hours with food. In this case a meal or a light snack and to emphasize it, Victrelis must be administered in combination with PR always.

Before I talk a little bit about the dosage and administration which is complex and doesn’t really lend itself well to a telephone venue, I did want to briefly review the clinical studies of Victrelis so the efficacy and safety of Victrelis as a treatment for chronic hepatitis C was assessed in approximately 1500 adult subjects in the phase 3 trials and the phase 3 trials were previously untreated (sprint) 2 or previously treated respond to.

And both of the trials - phase 3 trials - had similar designs. They both had three arms so they had a four-week lead in and the three arms in both studies included the control arm of PR alone which included a total of 48 weeks total duration of therapy. And then there was a triple therapy of arm after the lead in with PR plus Victrelis and then there was a response guided therapy arm.

In the naïve patients the response guided therapy arm, there was a chance of stopping all treatment at 28 weeks if patients had an undetectable viral load by week 8 and maintained that and in the treatment experience study respond to there was chance in the response guided therapy arm of stopping therapy at week 36 or after 32 weeks of the triple therapy.

As I said these are complex studies. You should refer to the label. We expect that these drugs will be used by hepatologists and other experts in the field. But in both studies there was a substantial and statistically significant result for adding Victrelis to peg-interferon and Ribavirin therapy.

In the naïve population, it was 63% to 60% for the Victrelis arms containing arms compared to 38% SVR and for the peg-Ribavirin arm.

And in respond two likewise there was a substantial and significant results with 59% to 66% achieving SVR in the Victrelis contained arms and 23% in the control the PR alone arm.

We did note that there was some numerical differences between response guided therapy and a full 44 weeks of triple therapy. We believe that to a large part some of these differences were in the psoriatic patients, so thus when we devise the dosage in administration’s schedule there were some certain modifications to the doses that were actually studied in the clinical studies to allow more patients to get targeted response guided therapy.

So if you go to the label, you will find that the dosage administration for Victrelis is divided into kind of two segments. One is for patients without psorosis and the other recommendations are for those with psorosis. So for patients without psorosis who were previously untreated or previous partial responders or relapsers to peg Ribavirin, there’s a table and the duration of treatment of all of these components is decided based on HCV RNA viral load assessments at treatment weeks 8, 12, and 24 and one will have to look closely at that table to look at the exact duration of treatment that is right for your particular patient or for how they’re responding.

For patients who are considered historical non-responders - those who had less than a two log decline in week 12 - they should receive 44 weeks of triple therapy after a four-week lead in. Likewise for patients with psorosis, a full 44 weeks of Victrelis in combination with PR after a four-week lead in is recommended.

There are futility analyses as there are futility time points as well at week 12 and 24. If viral load exceeds certain levels at that time all therapy should be stopped.

A little bit about the safety aspects and drug interactions. As far as contraindications because Victrelis must be used peginterferon and Ribavirin, the contraindications and mornings to interferon and Ribavirin therapy applies so Victrelis cannot be used in women who are pregnant or wanting to become pregnant and also in men whose female partners are pregnant.

And there’s also some co-administrations for drugs which are likely to be dependent on similar pathways of metabolism as Victrelis. Should refer to the label for that.

Besides pregnancy warnings to major warnings pertaining to Victrelis are that it can exacerbate a larger frequency of anemia and neutropenia already seen with peginterferon and Ribavirin and in fact the number of transfusions and dosage estimates with Ribavirin were higher when Victrelis was added to a PR regimen. Besides anemia and neutropenia other clinical side effects would be fatigue, nausea, headache, and an unpleasant taste of the drug.

And with that, I think those are the key highlights of the Victrelis label. I would say that as far as use in other special populations besides psorasis it’s currently not recommended for decompensated psorosis as PR therapy is also contraindicated in that population at this point.

Safety and efficacy has not been established in co-infection with HIV or hepatitis B or in pediatric patients at this time, but studies are ongoing. Dr. Birnkrant.
Dr. Debra Birnkrant: Okay. I’ll now describe - I’ll start with the indication of the usage wording for Telaprevir and Incivek.

Incivek is a hepatitis C virus (NS348) protease inhibitor indicated in combination with peginterfereon, alpha riboviran for the treatment of genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C in adult patients of compensated liver disease including psorosis who are treatment naïve or have been previously treated with interferon based treatment including prior no responders, partial responders, and relapsers. Again, Incivek must not be used as monotherapy and must only be used in combination with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin.

There were three main phase 3 trials to support the approval of Telaprevir in addition to early clinical trials. The three pivotal trials were Study 108 which is also called the Advanced Trial conducted in treatment naïve subjects. Study 111 was a supportive trial in the naïve population. This was also called the (Elumina) Trial and Study 216 was a pivotal trial in treatment experienced subjects also referred to as the Realize Trial.

I’ll describe some of the trial strategies that were used in the various clinical trials.

In Study 108 in naïve, there was a treatment duration of 8 weeks versus a treatment duration of 12-week comparative control, and the design was such that to see if there was a shorter treatment duration might improve tolerability. That is, was 8 weeks as good as 12 weeks of Telaprevir in combination with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin.

Study 111 was designed to determine if there would be increased efficacy associated with longer duration of therapy for subjects who achieved an early virologic response.

And in treatment experience Study 216 was designed to assess delayed versus immediate start of therapy with triple combination.

Now I’ll refer to the approved prescribing information to describe the Telaprevir dosing recommendations and this is split out in a table between treatment naïve and prior relapse patients compared to prior partial and no responder patients.

For treatment naïve and prior relapse patients, two tablets of Telaprevir at a dose of 375 mg. every seven to nine hours with food should be taken and these are the conditions under which this should be taken and the duration of treatment.

Although HCV RNA is undetectable at weeks 4 and 12, then triple therapy with Incivek pegylated interferon alpha and Ribavirin should be dosed for the first 12 weeks.

If there is undetectable HCV RNA at 4 and 12 weeks, then a total duration of treatment is 24 weeks with an additional 12 weeks of dual treatment with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin.

If HCV RNA is detectable at weeks 4 and 12 during the first 12 weeks, again it’s triple therapy with Incivek, peginterferon alpha and Ribavirin, and then an additional 36 weeks for a total of 48 weeks of treatment duration. The additional 36 weeks is with dual therapy with pegylated interferon alpha and Ribavirin.

For prior partial and no responder patients, two tablets 375 mg. every seven to nine hours with food should be used in the following way: for all patients that fall under the prior partial and no responder categories, they should receive triple therapy for the first 12 weeks with Incivek, pegylated interferon alpha and Ribavirin then dual therapy with pegylated interferon alpha and Ribavirin for an additional 36 weeks for a total treatment duration of 48 weeks.

The laboratory data that’s used to support whether or not to continue treatment is based on an approved asset with a lower limit of quantitation of 25 international units per ML and a lower limit of detection of 10 international units per ML.

There are futility rules such that patients should not continue dosing if it doesn’t appear as though they’re responding early on. The reason for futility rules is to ensure that there’s a limitation to the development of resistance. And I refer those on the call to the prescribing information.

Turning to Study 108 in naïve all focus on the treatment duration of 12 weeks compared to control have pegylated interferon Ribavirin for 48 weeks. Overall the FDA rates were 79% for the Telaprevir combination group compared to 46% for the control group.

An early virologic response that is ERBR was seen in 78% of the T12 pegylated interferon Ribavirin compared to only 8% in controls.

The SVR in the ERVR subjects was 92% for Telaprevir for 12 weeks and combination of pegylated interferon and Ribavirin.

Relapse rates were quite low in those subjects receiving combination therapy with Telaprevir at a rate of 4%.

Turning now to the treatment experience trial Study 216 and prior interferon failures, the FDA rate in prior relapsers was 86% in the triple combination arm of Telaprevir dose for 12 weeks with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin compared to a rate of 22% in control.

For prior partial responders, it was 59% in the Telaprevir combination in group compared to 15% in the pegylated interferon Ribavirin control group and for prior no responders the response rate for SVR was 32% compared to 5% in control.

Looking at historically difficult to treat subgroups, Telaprevir also significantly improved outcomes for blacks, Latinos, and patients with psorosis. In the naïve study there were only 26 subjects that were black or African-Americans approximately 9% of the study population. The overall SVR rate among black African-American subjects was 62%. Of those who achieved an early virologic response or an ERVR 89% achieved an SVR.

In the experience Study 216, the overall SVR rate in this group was 63%. Again keep in mind that the numbers were small.

In Latino-Hispanics, they comprised 10% of the Telaprevir peginterferon group. They ERVR rates approximately 5% lower by comparable SVR rates to Caucasians and the overall SVR rate was 79% for Telaprevir containing regimen compared to 31% for controls.

Psorotic patients also have limited representation in the clinical trial database. Approximately 8% of the naïve subjects had psorosis. The overall SVR rate in this population was 61% in those who received a Telaprevir containing regimen. There was a suggestion of 48 weeks being better than 24 weeks with regard to SVR.

In the experience population approximately 25% had psorosis and the overall SVR rate was approximately 47% in those receiving a Telaprevir combination regimen compared to 13% in control.

I’ll now turn to a safety review. Approximately 3800 healthy and infected subjects were exposed to at least one dose of Telaprevir. In the phase 3 trial 1700 were exposed to Telaprevir.

I’ll focus on a few key areas namely rash, anemia, anorectal disorders, and general adverse events. You need to keep in mind that rash and anemia are both seen with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin therapy.

Rash and pruritus were identified in phase 2 trials and a monitoring and management plan was instituted for instituted for the phase 3 trials. There was also a dermatology expert panel that reviewed cases retrospectively.

Clinically and histologically the rash seen with Telaprevir is comparable to that seen with pegylated interferon and Ribavirin. It is described as an exematous maculopapular and papular lichenoid rash. The rash did not appear to be a drug-induced hypersensitivity type of rash. Less than 1% of subjects experienced a suspected severe rash such as Stevens Johnson and not all occurred during Telaprevir dosing period. The mechanism of rash was investigated, but remains unknown and there were no deaths related to rash.

I’ll now turn to anemia. The most problematic side effect of Ribavirin therapy is reversible hemolytic anemia. Telaprevir adds to the frequency and severity of this toxicity. Anemia was seen in non-clinical studies so we knew we had to monitor for it in the clinical trials. It’s highlighted in the warnings and precaution section of the label with recommendations of how to deal with anemia such as measuring hemoglobin baseline and every four weeks, utilizing Ribavirin dose reduction to manage anemia, and it’s important to note that Incivek should not be dose reduced, and if discontinued then should not be restarted.

Regarding anorectal disorders approximately 20% of subjects receiving Telaprevir had an anorectal disorder compared to 5% on control. The most commonly reported disorders in this category were hemorrhoids, anorectal discomfort, and anal pruritus. The time to onset is approximately ten days. Less than 1% were serious. Most were managed with topical agents. Again for this adverse event, the mechanism is unknown and in some mostly remains bothersome and rarely treatment limiting.

Adverse reactions seen in greater than or equal to more than 5% higher frequency in Telaprevir subjects compared to control were as follows: rash, fatigue, pruritis, nausea, anemia, diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhoids, anorectal discomfort, and (unintelligible) or interference with taste.

As I said conclude with summary efficacy comments. The addition of Telaprevir to pegylated interferon Ribavirin containing regimen significantly increased SVR rates compared to pegylated interferon Ribavirin alone across a broad range of populations and demographic subgroups. Highest SVR rates demonstrate that the overall duration of therapy can indeed be shortened without jeopardizing efficacy in naives and prior relapse groups.

Extending pegylated interferon and Ribavirin to 48 weeks in addition to 12 weeks of Telaprevir provides additional benefit for naïve subjects who did not achieve an early rapid virological response and in those who are previous interferon failures.

Regarding safety, rash, pruritus and anemia are the key to Telaprevir related toxicities and it is felt they can be monitored and managed appropriately. Anorectal disorders occur frequency, but appear only bothersome yet still manageable and there were no significant infections seen due to low white cells and no abnormal bleeding was seen due to low platelets. Thank you very much.

Richard Klein: Thank you, Dr. Birnkrant and Dr. Murray. And with that Angie, I wonder if we can open the question and answer portion of the call. And while we’re waiting to do that, I just had one quick question. You mentioned dosing with a meal and I’m wondering if the amount of food and the type of food has an impact on absorption when taking the drugs?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: Well with regard to Telaprevir food absolutely has an effect on absorption and plasma concentration, so it is recommended that subjects or patients take Telaprevir three times a day every seven to nine hours with food that is low fat. It could be a meal, it could be a snack, but it should not be low fat. So examples of foods that can be used while taking Telaprevir include bagels with cream cheese, avocados, nuts, granola, et cetera.

Richard Klein: Thank you. And (Angie), do we have questions queued up?

Coordinator: At this time if you’d like to ask a question, please press star 1 on your touch tone phone and record your first and last name so that you may be announced. In order to withdraw your question, you will press star 2.

Once again if you’d like to ask a question, please press star 1 on your touch tone phone and record your first and last name so that you may be announced.

One moment please for our first question. Our first question comes from (Joel Levin). Your line is open.

(Joel Levin): Two questions. You didn’t mention the food for Boceprevir. What’s recommended for Boceprevir?


Dr. Jeffrey Murray: …also with a meal, it could be a snack, but the high fat requirement is not needed. But it should be a meal or a snack.

(Joel Levin): Okay. So my real question is this maybe I’m missing something or maybe there’s something - it just seems strange to me - so with Victrelis Boceprevir if a patient is greater than 100 with viral load at week 12, they’re to stop Boceprevir. I think they’re supposed to stop the whole regimen. But with Telaprevir, it’s greater than 1000 at week 12 so why is there that difference?

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Well, I think that the futility rules were based on looking at the data from the clinical trials and so Dr. Birnkrant can comment on the futility roles for Telaprevir. But in looking at these futility roles and how many patients by stopping early we would have missed SVRs in this database, we don’t think that you’re giving up any SVR or using the futility role of greater than 100 at week 12 and undetectable at 24. So it really depends on the data set.

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: For Telaprevir patients with an inadequate viral response are unlikely to achieve an SVR and the concern is that they may develop treatment emergent resistance of substitutions. The discontinuation of therapy is recommended in all patients with HCV RNA levels of greater than or equal to 1000 international units per ML at treatment week 4 or 12 or confirmed detectable HCV RNA levels at treatment week 24. And this is outlined in the package insert.

(Joel Levin): So the way you’re protecting people on Boceprevir is if they’re over 100 at week 12 - well if they’re over 100 at week 12 they’re supposed to stop the whole regimen, right?

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: That’s correct.

(Joel Levin): Okay. All right, so it’s basically based on the study data and trying not to lose people who still could get an SVR, right?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: That’s absolutely correct because Telaprevir there’s still some patients between HCV RNA level of 100 to 1000 who still had an SVR.

(Joel Levin): Right, okay.

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: Okay.

(Joel Levin): Thank you.

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Next question, please.

Coordinator: The next question comes from (Lauren Sant).

(Lauren Sant): Hi. This (Lauren Sant) (unintelligible) Ambassador's Program. You had mentioned that dosing is at seven to nine hours. Are there instructions for what happens if someone misses a dose and what they should do?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: In the medication guide that a company’s package insert there are instructions about how to deal with missing one dose. If more than one dose is missed, however, that’s a much more difficult situation and you should probably talk to your physician about how to resume therapy.

(Lauren Sant): Okay. But it’s clearly stated in the package if they miss one by a couple of hours what they should do?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: Absolutely.

(Lauren Sant): Great. Thank you.

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Thank you, Lauren. Can we go on to the next question, please?

Coordinator: Next question comes from David Ross.

David Ross: Hi. This is David Ross, US Department of Veteran Affairs. First congratulations to you and the review team. I know this was a tremendous amount of work and this is a day all of us have been waiting for. Do you know when the summary basis of approval - I’m not talking about the full action package - but the summary for approval for Boceprevir and Telaprevir is going to go up on the web?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: I don’t have an exact timeframe, but I’m told given the high priority or the high visibility of these drugs that it should be expedited. I can tell you now that both labels are up and both approval letters are online.

David Ross: Okay. Thanks...


David Ross: I know one of the things we’re looking at is, you know, there’s obviously hugely complex decisions to be made in terms of the review of this, in particularly with regard to individuals who have treatment experience for no responders and we’re just looking at the two different drugs and the different study designs and it’s - you guys have living with the data for months. So having those up would be hugely helpful to people.

A second question this is obviously an area for emerging science. I have IL28B statuses looked at retrospectively and it’s really, really helpful to have that information on the label, and again we really appreciate that, but do you anticipate that there’s going to any follow on data that’s perspectively collected that may give guidance to providers as well as patients about how to incorporate that into clinical decision making?

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Well one of the - as stated in the approval letter for Victrelis - one of the post-marketing commitments that Merck has agreed to do is that another study looking at the effect of IL28B and also looking at potentially shorter durations of therapy of Victrelis and/or PR. So we’ll hopefully be getting a protocol for that relatively soon. So that would be one of the post-marketing commitments.

David Ross: Okay. And then last question and again this is definitely an area of emerging science. There’s been data reported that (Easel) and (liver) meetings for the last couple of years in terms of an effective Vitamin B and Vitamin B regulated (unintelligible) products on SVR rates. There was a small interesting study from Israel randomized control trial last year at (Easel) showing a substantial effect from an (ex) US population. Is this anything - and I don’t know if this was considered during the review - but is this anything that again there might be follow on data to look at either in - I understand there may be things you can’t speak about, but I just - if it was considered in the review that would be great. But I just wanted to ask about that because Vitamin D level certainly they have instead that may affect SVR rates made a fool out of providers who are just kind of biting the bullet and giving Vitamin D.

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Right. I don’t think we have any further information on that. I don’t think you’ll find it in the summary reviews. I don’t think that Vitamin D levels were specifically measured in relation to treatment outcomes and there’s no currently pending studies in the form of post-marketing commitments on that although I’m sure there might be a lot of investigator interest in that area with these new DAAs.

David Ross: Absolutely. Again thanks for all your hard work on this.

Dr. Jeffrey Murray: Thank you. Angie, can we take the next question please?

Coordinator: Yes, sir. Our next question comes from (Miles Heflin). Your line is open.

(Miles Helfin): Hi. Thanks. It’s (Miles Helfin) from Given that there appear to be relatively few significant differences in terms of efficacy or safety between Telaprevir and Boceprevir how would you guys advice a clinician who’s going to be choose between these two drugs?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: Well the only way we would be answer that would be if they comparative in a head-to-head trial which they were not. So you’ll have to consult future treatment guidelines with regard to advice on that question.

(Miles Helfin): But I mean going forward in the future what’s a clinician or a patient to do when they’re trying to choose, “Well, all right. Which one of these drugs do I go with and incorporating that into a regimen?”

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: I think they should read the prescribing information quite thoroughly. When the Division Director and the other memos are up online, you should read those as well and perhaps await recommendations from professional organizations.

(Miles Helfin): Thanks.

Coordinator: Our next question will come from (Courtney McQueen). Your line is open.

(Courtney McQueen): Hi. This is (Courtney McQueen) from the Aids Begin. Thank you very much. I had two questions. First during the Advisory Committee Meeting there was discussion of triple therapy being the new standard of treatment for hepatitis C would you comment on that? Do you think triple therapy is now the new standard?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: The Advisory Committee when posed that question clearly stated that there was a new standard of care now with the approval of these two new DAAs. So it appears as though there is a new standard of care and again we’ll have to await professional organizations treatment guideline recommendations to see what these professional societies are recommending.

(Courtney McQueen): Thank you. And my second question relates to people who are HIV HCV co-infected. The current approval is not for people who are co-infected. Do you have any idea about timelines for when such an approval might be considered?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: For Telaprevir as part of the one post-marketing commitments, we asked (Verteck) to conduct a trial to evaluate treatment responses and safety among treatment naïve and experienced HIV HCV co-infected subjects and the time table is as follows: the final protocol submission should be January 2012, the trial is estimated that it should be completed June 2014 with a final report submitted 2014 as well in December. There’s a pilot study in progress as well.

(Courtney McQueen): Thank you very much.

Coordinator: Our next question will come from (Garrett Benson). Your line’s open.

(Garrett Benson): Yes. My understanding is that the treatment is for genotype 1s only, but when and if will genotypes 2 get an opportunity to - if they relapsed after their treatment - would they ever get an opportunity for the DAs?

Dr. Debra Birnkrant: For Telaprevir pilot studies were conducted in other genotypes and it didn’t appear as though it had adequate activity in genotypes other than 1, genotype 1A and 1B.

(Garrett Benson): Okay. Thank you.

Richard Klein: I’d like to thank Drs. Hamburg, Birnkrant, and Murray for their presentations and all the attendees for their participation.

I hope the exchange was informative and useful to you. If you do have questions after today’s call or comments about the briefing, you can direct them to me at and I’ll be sure to direct questions to the appropriate FDA staffer for a response.

I hope you will share the information from today’s briefing with this colleagues and this concludes today’s stakeholder briefing on Boceprevir and Telaprevir and thank you very much for your participation. Have a good afternoon.


Telaprevir/Incivek Prescribing Information
Medication Guide
VICTRELIS™- Boceprevir: Prescribing Information and Medication Guide
Patient Assistance Program
INCIVEK/Telaprevir and VICTRELIS (Boceprevir) Patient Assistance Programs
Blog Notes;
Hello Folks,
Before shutting down the blog for the night I wanted to reiterate that Incivek, better known as telaprevir will be available for free to anyone who does not have insurance and if their annual household income is 100,000 or less. If you do have insurance regardless of your total household income Vertex will cover your co-pay or co-insurance costs up to twenty percent of the total cost of treating with incivek

From Vertex;
For eligible patients, the program includes the following:

  • Insurance Benefits Research and Support: Vertex case managers research patients’ insurance benefits for INCIVEK combination treatment, assists people with insurance appeals and helps guide them to other forms of financial support, including Vertex’s free medicine and co-pay program;

  • Free Medicine Program: Vertex gives INCIVEK for free to people who do not have insurance and have an annual household income of $100,000 or less; and

  • Co-Pay Support: Vertex covers co-pay or co-insurance costs up to 20% of the total cost of INCIVEK for people who have private insurance plans that cover INCIVEK, regardless of their household income.
More information about this program is available by calling 1-855-837-8394 or visiting

Here is the information on Boceprevir

If you have been prescribed a Merck medicine, you may be eligible for the program if all 3 of the following conditions apply:

  1. You are a US resident and have a prescription for a Merck medicine from a doctor licensed in the United States.*

  2. You do not have insurance or other coverage for your prescription medicine.
    Some examples of other insurance coverage include private insurance, HMOs, Medicaid, Medicare, state pharmacy assistance programs, veterans assistance, or any other social service agency support.

  3. You cannot afford to pay for your medicine.
    You may qualify for the program if you have a household income of $43,560 or less for individuals, $58,840 or less for couples, or $89,400 or less for a family of 4.**
At Merck we realize that sometimes exceptions need to be made based on the patient's individual circumstances. If you do not meet the prescription drug coverage criteria, your income meets the program criteria, and there are special circumstances of financial and medical hardship that apply to your situation, you can request that an exception be made for you.

*You do not have to be a US citizen. Legal residents of the United States are also eligible.

** For income limits in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and Guam, please call 1-800-727-5400.

Find out more information by calling the phone numbers provided.
The Patient Assistance links will remain on the sidebar of this blog
Sending out hope to all of you tonight.