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New weapon fights hepatitis C

Experimental drug clears hurdle on its way to joining standard drug combinations

Ten years ago, John McHutchison never used the word “cure” when discussing hepatitis C with his patients. But the results seen from drugs cleared for use since then — and particularly a new drug now in the final stages of testing — are changing that, says the gastroenterologist from Duke University in Durham, N.C.

“As far as these patients are concerned, they’re pretty much cured,” McHutchison says. “We don’t need to see them anymore.”

The new drug, called telaprevir, works with a standard hepatitis C drug combination to clear the virus from patients’ blood substantially better than the standard treatment alone, according to a study coauthored by McHutchison and another study, both in the April 30 New England Journal of Medicine. The new findings, in people getting their first course of drugs for the disease caused by the virus, also indicate that typically lengthy hepatitis C treatment could be halved with telaprevir’s addition.

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