Hepatitis C Virus Therapy in the Direct Acting Antiviral Era

Mitchell L. Shiffman


Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2014;30(3):217-222. 

In This Article

Simeprevir and Faldaprevir

Both simeprevir and faldaprevir are NS3–4A protease inhibitors.[12–16] Both act at the same binding site as telaprevir and boceprevir and are only effective in patients with HCV genotype 1. As a result, neither of these agents is likely to be effective in patients with resistance to telaprevir or boceprevir.

Simeprevir was approved for use in patients with HCV genotype 1 in late 2013 and faldaprevir is expected to be approved in early 2014. Both of these protease inhibitors will be utilized as triple therapy with PEGINF and RBV for 12 weeks followed by an additional 12–36 weeks of PEGINF and RBV. In patients who are treatment-naive or who have had prior relapse with PEGINF and RBV, the recommended total duration of therapy when utilizing simeprevir is 24 weeks, that is 12 weeks of simeprevir, PEGINF and RBV followed by an additional 12 weeks of PEGINF and RBV. Approximately, 80% of these patients will achieve a rapid virologic response (RVR) and be HCV RNA undetectable within 4 weeks of initiating treatment. The SVR in these patients is approximately 90%.[12,13] It is recommended that patients with HCV RNA more than 25 IU/ml at either weeks 4, 12 or 24 stop treatment. In patients with prior nonresponse to PEGINF and RBV, the total duration of therapy is 48 weeks, that is 12 weeks of simeprevir, PEGINF and RBV followed by an additional 36 weeks of PEGINF and RBV. The SVR rate in these patients is 53–65%.[14] It is recommended that patients with HCV RNA more than 25 IU/ml at either weeks 4, 12 or 24 also stop treatment. It is anticipated that the recommendations for faldaprevir will be quite similar.

Simeprevir and faldaprevir offer significant advantages over telaprevir and boceprevir. The most important of these is that neither of these agents cause additional anemia compared with PEGINF and RBV.[12–16] All of these agents are dosed as a single once daily tablet, no special diet is required during dosing and no significant drug-drug interactions have been observed. Simeprevir was not noted to have any adverse events with greater frequency than PEGINF and RBV.[12–14] Faldaprevir was noted to have a slightly higher incidence of rash.[15,16] However, the rash was graded as only mild or moderate in all cases and no grade 3 rashes were observed. Faldaprevir was also associated with a mild increase in total bilirubin without elevations in liver transaminases or alkaline phosphatase.

Controlled clinical trials comparing the various antiviral agents utilized for treatment of patients with HCV genotype 1 have not been conducted. As such, no direct comparison regarding the relative effectiveness of these agents can be made. Both simeprevir and faldaprevir triple therapies were evaluated against a placebo control with PEGINF and RBV. As a result, the improvement in SVR with the protease inhibitor over control could be compared for all of the available protease inhibitors.[1–5,12–16] Such a comparison suggests that RVR and SVR rates are somewhat higher in patients treated with simeprevir or faldaprevir compared with telaprevir and boceprevir. The high RVR rates observed with simeprevir and faldaprevir allow 80% of patients to be treated for only 24 weeks and lead to the higher SVR rates.

The success of treatment in patients treated with simeprevir or faldaprevir, like other protease inhibitors, is dependent upon an effective interferon response and this is modulated by interleukin-28B genotype. In treatment-naive patients, the SVR approaches 90% in patients with interleukin-28B genotype CC and declines in patients with the CT and TT genotypes.[12,13,15] In patients with prior nonresponse to PEGINF and RBV, the SVR rates during retreatment with simepreivr or faldaprevir triple therapy follow a similar trend of interferon responsiveness; higher rates of SVR with prior partial response and the lowest SVR rates in prior null responders.[14,16]

The primary limitation of simeprevir is that a mutation at the Q80K loci of HCV adversely impacts the antiviral efficacy of simeprevir and leads to a significant reduction in SVR.[12,13,17] This mutation is present in about 40% of patients with HCV genotype 1A. The Q80K mutation is only rarely seen in HCV genotype 1B. The Q80K mutation in HCV has the greatest impact and significantly lowers SVR in patients who are genetically less sensitive to interferon. In contrast, patients with interleukin-genotype CC, who are highly sensitive to interferon, have similar SVR rates even if the HCV Q80K mutation is present.[12,13] When treating patients with genotype 1A, it is therefore important that the patient is interleukin-28 genotype CC or that HCV does not contain the Q80K mutation. Testing the patient for their IL28B genotype and/or evaluating HCV for the presence of this mutation should be strongly considered if simeprevir is to be utilized. Patients with HCV genotype 1 and the Q80K mutation who are IL28B genotype CT or TT are best treated by an alternative antiviral agent.