Two strategies for managing anemia in hepatitis C patients work equally well, Merck says


BARCELONA, Spain — Merck is testing two means of treating patients with chronic hepatitis C for anemia, a common side effect of certain treatments for the viral infection, the drug maker said.

Merck announced results of a phase-3 study comparing two strategies for managing anemia and how they affect the curing of hepatitis C in patients taking Victrelis (boceprevir) with Pegintron (peginterferon alfa-2b) and ribavirin.

The drug maker took a group of 500 patients and divided it roughly in half, giving one half the anemia treatment erythropoietin while reducing the ribavirin dosage of the other half. In both groups, patients had a viral cure rate of 71%.

"Chronic hepatitis C regimens with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin are commonly associated with the development of anemia, and this effect is further increased with the addition of Victrelis," Cedars-Sinai Medical Center chief of hepatology and liver transplantation Fred Poordad said. "The results of this study show there was no difference in [cure] rates among these anemia management strategies and that ribavirin dose reduction should be the primary strategy for managing anemia in patients taking Victrelis combination therapy."

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