January 9, 2014

Citations Highlight Promising New Drugs for Hepatitis C Infection

08 Jan 2014
David Sharp


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently revised its guidance on testing for infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Testing for anti-HCV, recommended for known at-risk groups for the past 15 years (and, in 2012, suggested as routine in the birth cohort 1945-65, the so-called “baby boomers”) does not distinguish between past and ongoing infection. The latest guidance includes tests for HCV RNA; these tests do make the distinction. Another reason for the revision is “significant advances in the development of antiviral agents with improved efficacy against HCV” (MMWR 62[18]: 357-61, 2013). Drawing on exclusive citation data from Thomson Reuters Web of Science, a new Top Ten list provides the opportunity for an update on those agents.

HCV infection is a serious public-health issue. World Health Organization global estimates include 150 million people with chronic HCV infection and 350,000 deaths from HCV-related liver disease and 3 to 4 million new infections annually. Many cases remain undiagnosed; there is currently no vaccine; and available treatments are not ideal. The six known HCV genotypes can respond differently; a mainstay of therapy has been interferon, a tricky drug to manage; and about 60% of patients with HCV genotype 1 infection are not cured by up to 48 weeks of interferon plus ribavirin (J.G. McHutchison et al,  New Engl. J. Med., 361[6]: 580-93, 2009). When ScienceWatch last covered the therapeutic options, the best on offer seemed to be a combination of polyethyleneglycolated interferon (PEG interferon) and the antiviral agent ribavirin. The picture has recently been changing, and rapidly, with the development of compounds that act more directly on HCV. The two current front-runners in terms of both clinical trial activity and publications and citations are boceprevir and telaprevir, still given in combination with the former dual therapy, but there is huge interest in second-generation candidates (vaniprevir, sofosbuvir and MK-5172, to name but a few).

Read the full ScienceWatch article to see the Top Ten list and to find out more about developments taking place in this therapeutic area.

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