Hepatitis C drug pipeline growing, `progress accelerating`

Megan Nicholson, Megan Nicholson
Published: 11 April 2003

A number of new antivirals for the treatment of hepatitis C are in the pipeline, according to new research presented at the Eleventh International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease in Sydney, Australia, this week.

Leading hepatitis C researcher Dr Stanley Lemon said that advances in our understanding of the way the hepatitis C virus (HCV) overcomes immune responses to HCV have provided the basis for new drug design.

Since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy, viral hepatitis has become a major cause of death among HIV-infected people in western countries. Existing therapies for hepatitis C have limited efficacy and are often difficult for people to tolerate due to side-effects.

Dr Lemon told the conference that management of hepatitis C had progressed “to the point where the treating physician can promise permanent cures in perhaps as many as half of all patients. The next three years will see only an acceleration of this progress on all fronts”.

Preliminary results of human and animal studies involving several of the new HCV therapies were presented at the symposium:

  • ISIS14803 has been tested in 28 people with chronic hepatitis C. Three people experienced a reduction of 1 log in HCV RNA, all receiving the highest dose of 2mg/kg. No resistance mutations emerged during the four weeks of treatment in these patients. ISIS14803 is known as an antisense oligonucleotide inhibitor which targets a conserved region of the internal ribosome entry segment (IRES) of HCV (Soler).
  • NM283 has reduced levels of HCV RNA in HCV-infected chimpanzees of approximately 1 log occurred after seven days of treatment (Standring).
  • Moldovan researchers have treated 28 people with chronic hepatitis C using a drug called pacovirin which has antiviral and immune-modulating effects. A preliminary study showed improvements in liver function and symptoms (Spinu).

Further information on the hepatitis C drug pipeline

Click here to view a chart in pdf form published by Nature magazine detailing products in development.


Lemon SM et al. Hepatitis C: new directions and predictions for the future. Eleventh International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease, Sydney, closing session, 2003.

Soler M et al. Antiviral efficacy and HCV resistance to ISIS 14803, an antisense oligonucleotide inhibitor of HCV. Eleventh International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease, Sydney, abstract WE4-04, 2003.

Spinu C et al. Use of pacovirin in treatments of hepatitis C. Eleventh International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease, Sydney, abstract WE4-11, 2003.

Standring DN et al. NM283 has potent antiviral activity against chronic hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection in the chimpanzee. Eleventh International Symposium on Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease, Sydney, session WE4, 2003.

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