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FDA Approves New Drug for Hepatitis C, Incivek

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Monday approved a new drug that researchers say can help clear out the Hepatitis C virus faster.

The FDA approved Incivek after three clinical trials sponsored by the drug's maker, Vertex Pharmaceuticals.  The trials showed that a higher percentage (79 percent) of patients saw improvement with Incivek vs. using the older drugs alone.  The FDA also reported that Incevek appeared to cut treatment time in half, from 48 weeks to 24 weeks.

Incivek's approval comes just after the FDA gave the go-ahead for Victrelis, another drug in the same class.  Now, Dr. Edward Cox, a director at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, says the approval of both drugs offer a "greater chance at a cure" for Hepatitis C patients.

Side effects of both Incivek and Victrelis include anemia, nausea and headaches, according to the FDA.  However, experts have high expectations for the new treatments.

"Both patients and physicians are really excited about the approval of this drug, which represents a huge advance in the treatment of hepatitis C," Dr. Douglas Dieterich of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City told HealthDay News.  "It is expected to almost double the cure rate of this disease."

Hepatitis C is an infection of the liver that affects more than three million Americans and is responsible for the majority of liver transplants performed in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  It can be spread by sharing needles, toothbrushes or razors with an infected individual, or by sexual contact.

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