On May 13, the FDA announced the approval of Victrelis (boceprevir) to treat Hepatitis C virus in adults.
, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection “is the most common chronic bloodborne infection in the United States,” and “approximately 3.2 million persons are chronically infected.” Each year there is an estimated 8,000-10,000 deaths in the US, so researchers have been working to develop new ways to treat the virus. The hard work paid off when last week the FDA announced its approval of Merck’s HCV treatment, VICTRELIS™ (boceprevir). Victrelis is the first treatment “in a new class of medicines known as hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitors approved for use in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, which is the current standard therapy, for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C.”
In the press release put out by Merck, Dr. Bruce Bacon, professor of internal medicine, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and a clinical investigator for Victrelis, said, “This is an exciting day for physicians and patients because VICTRELIS is the first major advancement for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C approved in a decade… Compared to current standard therapy, VICTRELIS can significantly increase a patient’s chance of achieving undetectable levels of the virus, thereby obtaining as SVR [sustained virologic response]. For many patients, VICTRELIS may allow for a shorter total duration of treatment.”
Matthew Herper, writer of the Forbes.com blog The Medicine Show, wrote that the approval of Victrelis “represents a victory for the drug giant, and could kick off one of the fiercest drug marketing battles in years.” The reason Herper wrote this is because Vertex Pharmaceuticals is also developing a HCV treatment that is expected to receive approval “later this month with a more straightforward and easy-to-understand dosing schedule.” According to an article, “Vertex’s Incivek is also more potent, curing a greater percentage of hepatitis C patients compared to Merck’s Victrelis, at least according to the respective clinical trials run by both companies.” Until Incivek is approved, Victrelis has the HCV market to itself, but when it is approved, there will be a major marketing battle between Merck and Vertex.
Resources for health care professionals (courtesy of the CDC):
What do you think about the FDA approval of Victrelis? Do you think it will be an effective treatment for hepatitis C virus? What about Vertex’s Incivek? Researchers are claiming it might be a better alternative, do you agree?