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Hepatitis C News Round-Up

The hepatitis C virus affects 4 million people in the United States and research about this dangerous, liver-damaging virus carries on in earnest in laboratories around the world. New discoveries are continually being made about the hepatitis C virus to refine the effectiveness of current treatments and even explain why some people don’t respond as well to treatment as others.

For example, just this year National Institute of Health scientists uncovered a gene that keeps the body from clearing the hepatitis C virus. This means, for unlucky individuals who inherit this gene, they may not respond as well to hepatitis C treatment.

This gene variation, called IFNL4 (short for Interferon Lambda 4), appears more often in people of African descent. This discovery could account for why African-Americans treated for hepatitis C infection have a lower cure rate than patients of European or Asian descent. Now that this is known, I hope that future research will find more effective treatments for people with this gene.

In other research news, it was reported that hepatitis C patients who have advanced hepatic fibrosis do better in terms of all-cause mortality when they achieve a sustained virological response (SVR) during treatment. In other words, hepatitis C treatment not only preserves liver health, it is also associated with overall health. When it came down to it, the risk of dying from any cause during the 8.5 years these patients were followed was nearly four times less in those with a SVR. Yet another reason why getting treated for hepatitis C infection is a good idea.

Finally, in not-so-surprising news, researchers say that hepatitis C treatment simply cannot be effective if a patient doesn’t actually take their medications. An article in General Hospital Psychiatry points out that even though highly effective hepatitis C treatments are available that could cure up to 80 percent of patients, some potential patients don’t start or complete this treatment. This study highlights the three major barriers to treatment: substance abuse, depression, and fear of side effects.

We are well aware of treatment barriers and BioPlus relies on high-touch methods to overcome them. In one recent analysis of 3,124 BioPlus patients being treated for oncology, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and with Ig therapy medications, medication compliance during the one-month sample was 97.3 percent. Our BioPlus pharmacists and support staff understand and work with patients about all treatment barriers, including specific education to reduce fear of side effects and provide tools to cope with side effects.

Stephen C Vogt, PharmD

President and CEO
BioPlus SP


North CS, Hong BA, Adewuyi SA, et al. Hepatitis C treatment and SVR: the gap between clinical trials and real-world treatment aspirations. Gen Hosp Psychiatry 2012;8343(12)00336-2.
Prokunina-Olsson L, Muchmore B, Tang W, et al. A variant upstream of IFNL3 (IL28B) creating a new interferon gene IFNL4 is associated with impaired clearance of hepatitis C virus. Nat Genet 2013 Feb;45(2):164-71.
van der Meer AJ, Veldt BJ, Feld JJ, et al. Association between sustained virological response and all-cause mortality among patients with chronic hepatitis C and advanced hepatic fibrosis. JAMA 2012;308(24):2584-93. 


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February 2013
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