PHILADELPHIA — In continuing research reporting groundbreaking results in the treatment of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), Penn Medicine and an international team of researchers showed a new combination drug therapy is effective in curing the disease in up to 99.5 percent of patients using a drug cocktail that includes three new directly acting anti-viral drugs, ritonavir boosted protease inhibitor ( 450/r)/ombitasvir and dasabuvir with and without ribavirin, a drug currently used in HCV treatment.

The findings, published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, are more great news for the more than three million Americans and more than 170 million people worldwide with HCV.

The new drugs allow chronic hepatitis C to be treated in a manner that is well tolerated, yet highly effective. The international research team, led by the Medical University of Vienna (Austria) studied 419 patients with genotype 1b infection and found that with only 12 weeks of treatment with the protease inhibitor ABT-450/r, Ombitasvir and Dasubavir, 99.5 percent of patients were cured when combined with ribavirin and 99 percent without ribavirin.

In addition, the group looked at the same drug regimen in patients with genotype 1a infection and found equally astounding results, though they did show a greater need for ribavirin as part of the treatment regimen, with 97 percent of patients who took ribavirin and 90 percent in the group not receiving ribavirin effectively cured of their disease. 

Patients in both groups were all in the early stages of the disease—before the development of cirrhosis or significant complications.

These findings represent the latest in a wealth of recent data showing that HCV can be effectively cured. Findings published in April 2014 in NEJM showed that between 94 and 99 percent of HCV cases of previously untreated and those who failed prior HCV treatment, were cured of the disease using the antiviral drugs ledipasvir and sofosbuvir.

Current therapies that include Ribavirin and the immunemodulator interferon come with considerable side effects, which these new therapies eliminate.

“These results showed once again, that HCV can be cured,” says K. Rajender Reddy, MD, professor of Medicine and medical director of Hepatology/Transplantation Hepatology at Penn Medicine and senior author on the paper. Penn has served as the regional leader in this new research and findings published earlier this year. “In the not too distant future, HCV will be a disease of the past, and many patients given a second chance and a brand new life. It’s amazing success.”

For more information see the University of Vienna’s news release.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.6 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $494 million awarded in the 2019 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 43,900 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2019, Penn Medicine provided more than $583 million to benefit our community.

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