The Next Wave of Agents for Treatment of Hepatitis C

William F. Balistreri, MD


November 21, 2013

In This Article

A Glimpse of the Future in HCV Treatment

There is an even higher degree of optimism, however, because recent studies may usher in the next wave of treatment strategies for HCV infection. In my opinion, the goal for treatment in terms of efficacy, safety, and tolerability is an IFN-free regimen. Simeprevir is being studied in phase 2 IFN-free trials with and without RBV and in combination with a host of other agents that act synergistically to inhibit HCV replication, and which include all oral regimens. For example, studies in progress suggest that high SVRs can be achieved in patients treated with simeprevir and sofosbuvir together, with and without RBV.

I will end by offering a glimpse of the future. Currently under evaluation in clinical studies are second-generation protease inhibitors and small-molecule drugs that inhibit other viral enzymes. Drug cocktails that target multiple HCV enzymes simultaneously may ultimately become the standard of treatment, as in the current strategy for the management of infection with HIV.

The bottom line is that these exciting advances in antiviral therapy will lead to significant improvements in response rates with reduced adverse effects. These advantages may lower the threshold for HCV treatment for both patients and physicians.

It is important to note, though, that at present only a minority of HCV-infected patients may benefit because of multiple barriers that have been identified and that impede delivery of therapy. A major issue is inadequate case-finding, an obstacle that could be overcome by widespread screening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently advised enhanced testing; their guidelines state that many persons who test positive for hepatitis C do not receive the necessary follow-up to determine whether they require medical care. Therefore, enhanced efforts to improve awareness, education, and specialist availability are needed.

The high prevalence of HCV infection worldwide should also stimulate expanded efforts in primary prevention, including vaccine development. Perhaps we can soon wave good-bye to HCV!


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