New Options to Treat Hepatitis C


Two new drug therapies to treat chronic hepatitis C (HCV) are the first new options for hospitalists in 20 years. But freedom of choice doesn't come cheap.

Telaprevir, from Vertex Pharmaceuticals, will cost $49,200 for a 12-week regimen, while boceprevir, from Merck & Co., will cost from $26,400 to $48,000 for regimens of 24 and 48 weeks, respectively, Reuters reports. Telaprevir will go by the brand name Incivek, while boceprevir is known as Victrelis.

"The price is expensive," but financial support for some patients is expected early on, says Satya Chelamkuri, MD, a hospitalist with Cogent Healthcare at Allegiance Health in Jackson, Mich. "When the generic comes out, it will be a great help to patients with hepatitis C. Cost is a worry, but with help from pharmaceutical companies, the majority of the patients who need it will hopefully get the treatment."

Still, Dr. Chelamkuri expects the drugs to appear relatively quickly on hospital formularies, in large part because of the efficacy they showed in trials. The standard treatment for years, a cocktail of peginterferon-alpha and ribavirin, has a roughly 50% response rate. Both of the new treatments, which have been formally approved by the FDA in the past six weeks, boost the cure rates to a range of 66% to 80% by working in tandem with the current therapy.

"A less than 50% [response rate] for the previous regime and around 70% for the new regime. That’s a considerable difference," Dr. Chelamkuri says.

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