New drug gives hope to hepatitis C patients

DUBAI - A study conducted by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health showed positive results of a new drug for the treatment of hepatitis C. Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a), a new treatment for hepatitis C, that was launched in the region last year by Hoffmann-La Roche, showed that 99 per cent of hepatitis C patients treated with Pegasys are still virus free four years later.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Fri 23 Jan 2004, 12:28 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:28 AM

The results were so positively endorsed that they have been included in the first Saudi Consensus Guidelines for the treatment of hepatitis C.

The trial found that 77 per cent of patients with hepatitis C genotype 4, the most difficult-to-treat strain, responded as early as week 12 in a 48-week treatment course with Pegasys combination therapy with ribavirin. The study was led by former Saudi Health Minister, Professor Ossama Shobokshi, a renowned gastroenterologist in the Middle East. The consensus study committee recommended that hepatitis C genotype 4 patients should be treated with combination therapy of Pegasys and ribavrin. The success of Pegasys since the launch has proven that it provides the best chance for a cure.

Only identified in 1989, the hepatitis C virus has infected more than 170 million people world-wide, making it more common than the HIV virus. The unprecedented results for Pegasys are especially relevant for patients living in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean and Africa where the genotype 4 strain of the virus is the most common.

Ekkehard Betsch, General Manager Middle East, Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, said: "What is important to know is that we now have the best means available to treat hepatitis C effectively, especially genotype 4, the most difficult-to-treat genotype. The results of the Saudi study are very encouraging and demonstrate the effectiveness of Pegasys combination therapy with ribavirin in the type of patients that we treat in the Middle East. Today with Pegasys we can offer most patients the best chance for a cure."

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