21 January 2006

Drug May Treat Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a serious viral infection that can damage the liver. Usually viral diseases are controlled with vaccines, and there are vaccines for some strains of hepatitis, but there is no vaccine for type C. Most viral diseases, unlike bacterial diseases which can be treated with antibiotics, are hard to treat once acquired. Existing anti-viral drugs fail to treat from 20% to 50% of hepatitis C cases once acquired, depending on the genotype involved. About 3.9 million Americans suffer from Hepatitis C, and most of them are chronically infected. (A similar disease was the part of the plot of the critically aclaimed but not very highly grossing science fiction movie "The Island".)

But, an early stage human clinical trial has identified a drug that appears to be successful in stopping Hepatitis C once you are suffering from it. Three stages of clinical trials are necessary to bring a new drug to market, two stages remain, and the last of these stages could be completed sometime in 2007, putting an effective cure for the disease as close as two or three years from being widely available, if the early promising results are fulfilled in later trials.

The ultimate source for this news the Associated Press via Business Week, is a reputable mainstream media outlet, so this appears to be something more than mere internet hype, even though it is not backed by published scientific journal articles. Of course, as experience has shown, seriously harmful side effects can be discovered about even FDA approved drugs like Vioxx, and it wouldn't be at all unheard of for a promising early trial of a drug to not lead to a marketable product due to problems that only become apparent in larger scale clinical trials.

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