Breakthrough Hepatitis C drug, Telaprevir, expected to hit US markets

In 1996, researchers for the startup drug company Vertex uncovered the structure of the enzyme associated with HCV. They hoped to find a place on the structure where they could dock a drug that would disable it, but the enzyme proved surprisingly resilient. Budding HIV research and new drugs that inhibited HIV's enzyme, protease, gave Vertex researchers hope.

In 2001, Vertex emerged with their potential hepatitis C drug, then called VX-950. However, they soon lost much of their support when a competitor demonstrated promise with another HCV drug. The company also had to deal with the impact of a dwindling economy. Increased interested and funding were eventually funneled back to Vertex when clinical trials of Telaprevir showed a dramatic success rate. In 2005, the FDA put the drug on the fast track for approval.

When used in combination with the two other HCV drugs, Telaprevir cured three out of four patients who had not previously received treatment. This is compared to a fifty percent success rate when the two HCV drugs were taken alone. These two drugs can cause flu-like symptoms. But, for most trial subjects, Telaprevir shortened the treatment time to six months—half the time of previous treatments.

Once approved, some estimate that Telaprevir could generate $2 billion annually. The FDA is also expected to approve Merck's HCV drug, Boceprevir. This may lead to competition between the companies, but it will offer more treatment options for the millions suffering from HCV worldwide.

Read more about Vertex and Telaprevir from the Boston Globe at

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click to enlarge Can Telaprevir cure Hepatitis C? - Deviant Art
Deviant Art
Can Telaprevir cure Hepatitis C?

click to enlarge Can Telaprevir cure Hepatitis C? - Deviant Art
Deviant Art
Can Telaprevir cure Hepatitis C?
  • Deviant Art
  • Can Telaprevir cure Hepatitis C?

It took 20 years and $4 billion in research and development, but next month the FDA is expected to approve a breakthrough drug for treating Hepatitis C: Telaprevir.

The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread from blood-to-blood contact. An infection often has few or no symptoms but eventually attacks the liver in 85% of those exposed to the virus. Once HCV takes hold it can permanently scar the liver, in some cases leading to liver failure or cancer. Currently HCV can be treated with medication like peginterferon and ribavirin, but these only cure about half of patients and often cause flu-like symptoms that last for the duration of the treatment: up to one year. An estimated 270-300 million people worldwide are infected with Hepatitis C.

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