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Mathematical model may improve hepatitis C drug treatment

Treatment cost for the average patient would go down by 16 to 20 percent, but for 40 percent of patients, the cost may go down by as much as 50 percent.

By
Stephen Feller
Using drugs for a shorter period to treat hepatitis C patients is healthier, and could have a significant impact on cost for nearly half of them. Photo by Stasique/Shutterstock
Using drugs for a shorter period to treat hepatitis C patients is healthier, and could have a significant impact on cost for nearly half of them. Photo by Stasique/Shutterstock

MAYWOOD, Ill., March 23 (UPI) -- Hepatitis C patients are often cured before completing a treatment regimen, suggesting patients require less of the drugs needed to fight the disease, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Loyola University devised a mathematical model that predicts the length of time patients need direct-acting antiviral drugs, potentially limiting the cost of being treated with an expensive drug.

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Using more frequent blood testing, the researchers were able to determine hepatitis C levels and predict when the drug sofosbuvir, combined with one of three others, could be stopped.

"Treatment currently is standardized to be given for a set period of time, not tailored to the patient," Dr. Scott Cotler, a professor at Loyola University, said in a press release. "In many cases, this may result in the prolonged use of expensive drugs with essentially no additional positive effect."

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For the study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, researchers required 58 people with hepatitis C being treated at three medical centers in France. Each was treated for 12 weeks, with 19 receiving sofosbuvir and simeprevir, 19 given sofosbuvir and daclatasvir and 20 treated with sofosbuvir and ledipasvir.

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Using early viral-kinetic analysis, researchers tested participants for blood levels of the virus at the start of the study, on the second day, every other week, at the end of the study and then 12 weeks after the study concluded.

The researchers found hepatitis C levels could be predicted with frequent blood testing, and by using the calculations researchers found the projected cost of treatment dropped by 16 percent to 20 percent per 100 patients receiving treatment. In about 40 percent of patients, the cost of treatment dropped by 50 percent.

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"This is the first time this approach has been tested in hepatitis C patients undergoing DAA treatment," Dr. Harel Dahari, an assistant professor at Loyola University. "This initial study is very encouraging."

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