What Medications are Used to Treat Hepatitis C?

Exciting news on the treatment front!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved two new drugs that are considered game changers in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infections.

Sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi) was approved December 6, 2013, for use in combination with other anti-viral agents – to treat genotypes 1, 2, 3 and 4 hepatitis C infections. Taken in pill form once a day, Sovaldi has been shown to have dramatically fewer and less toxic side effects than traditional therapies and can be taken for a much shorter period of time. In clinical trials, Sovaldi, in combination with other medications, cured the majority of cases of hepatitis C in as little as 12 weeks and reduced or eliminated the need for interferon injections. {SOURCE: Gilead}

Depending on the strain or genotype of hepatitis C infection, Sovaldi can be used with either ribavirin alone or with ribavirin and Interferon in adults with  hepatitis C.

Sovaldi is the first in a class of drugs called nucleotide analog polymerase inhibitors for hepatitis C that works by blocking a specific protein needed by the virus to replicate.

Simeprevir (brand name Olysio) was approved November 22, 2013, for use in combination with other anti-viral medications to treat genotype 1 hepatitis C. It is administered as a once a day oral treatment combined with ribavirin and interferon for a course of up to 24 weeks.

Olysio, is part of a class of drugs called protease inhibitors, which also targets a specific protein and blocks it so that the hepatitis C virus cannot replicate. It is approved solely for genotype 1 hepatitis C, the most common strain.

These new medications join the treatment armamentarium for hepatitis C, which includes:
Pegylated interferon  – a long-acting form of interferon that is similar to a protein your body makes to fight off infection. Pegylated interferon injection can be used alone, but it is mostly used in combination with oral ribavirin, a treatment regimen often referred to as PEG/riba therapy. It can markedly increase the chances of getting rid of the virus from your body.

  – is used only in combination with interferon. It can never be used alone to treat
hepatitis C.

Ribavirin is a nucleoside analog. It comes as a pill, capsule or liquid. Ribavirin can be taken twice daily depending on your treatment regimen. Although it is not effective against hepatitis C when used alone, ribavirin plays an important role in hepatitis C combination treatment. Scientists have not discovered exactly how it works, but are clear that adding ribavirin boosts cure rates and reduces the risk of relapse.

In May 2011, the FDA approved two new medications that are part of a drug group called HCV protease inhibitors. These new drugs directly attack the hepatitis C virus to stop it from growing. They are:
Boceprevir (brand name Victrelis)
Telaprevir (brand name Incivek)

Each of these drugs must be used in combination with PEG/riba therapy; they cannot be used alone. Using PEG/riba plus one – not both – of these new drugs is called triple therapy.