Lead investigator Dr. Ira Jacobson of Weill Cornell Medical College said 207 patients enrolled in the clinical trial of sofosbuvir, known as POSITRON, because they either did not respond to interferon, could not tolerate it or were unwilling to use it, even though no other treatment options were available to them.
"The new sofosbuvir therapy offers a much-needed alternative to standard therapy with interferon, which can cause significant side effects for hepatitis C patients," Jacobson said in a statement. "We have dreamed for years of being able to eliminate interferon from our hepatitis C regimens and this study is one of several that are finally bringing us very close to realizing that goal."
The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found for genotype 2, 12 weeks of treatment resulted in response rates of 86 percent, compared to 94 percent for 16 weeks of treatment. For genotype 3, the response rates were 30 percent for 12 weeks and 62 percent for 16 weeks.
"This new treatment represents a paradigm shift in the way that hepatitis C is going to be treated," Jacobson said.
Jacobson estimated as many as half of patients with hepatitis C infection either can't use interferon or don't want to use it because of side effects.
The journal publication coincides with a presentation of the findings at the International Liver Congress in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.