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Studies demonstrate positive data in treatment of hepatitis C

BOSTON Data from two ongoing studies testing new approaches for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) this afternoon.

Presented by principal investigator Nezam Afdhal, M.D., Chief of Hepatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the new findings provide researchers with sufficient evidence to demonstrate promising results for hepatitis C patients who have not responded to existing therapies.

A viral infection, hepatitis C is transmitted through exposure to infected blood. The virus, which affects an estimated 4 million individuals nationwide, is able to survive and flourish inside the body by taking up residence in the liver cells, and subsequently using the cells' inner machinery to make more copies of the virus. These in turn, infect other healthy cells.

The standard treatment for hepatitis C is a combination of interferon alfa and ribavirin, which act as anti-viral agents to eradicate the virus. According to Afdhal, the most recent advance in treatment has been the pegylation of interferon, which enables a once- a- week administration of the protein by injection and improves the ability to clear the virus. Combination therapy with pegylated interferon plus ribavirin for 24 to 48 weeks can result in eradication of the virus in about 50 percent of patients, he adds.

"When the hepatitis C virus doesn't respond as occurs in about half of all patients who are treated those patients who already have cirrhosis are at a far greater risk for developing liver cancer or suffering liver failure," notes Afdhal. In fact, he says, hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the U.S. Until now, no treatment has been available for these patients.

In his first presentation, Afdhal will describe results from the COPILOT [Colchicine versus PEG-INTRON Long-Term
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
1-Nov-2004


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