New drug offers promise for hep C cure

Merck and Co. Thursday presented new data from an ongoing Phase 2 clinical trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a once-a-day pill for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. The company reports a 12-week regimen of the drug therapy -- a compound of MK-5172 and MK-8742v -- has a cure rate of 98 percent.

Merck said they are pursuing a Phase 3 trial of the new compound, which also was 94 percent effective for patients taking ribaviran, an antiviral drug often prescribed to people with an acute hepatitis C infection.

Researchers for the drug presented the new data at the 49th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Liver Disease, also known as the International Liver Congress 2014 in London.

As of now, no one enrolled in the trial has suffered severe adverse effects from the drug. However, some patients did report common side effects such as fatigue, headache, nausea, diarrhea and insomnia, according to the company.

The ongoing C-WORTHy study is a randomized clinical trial of 471 hepatitis C patients at 16 testing sites.

Doctors to start prescribing breakthrough Hepatitis C drug
There are a number of pharmaceutical companies currently developing drugs for the treatment of hepatitis C. Recently, drug manufacturer Gilead Sciences announced their new hepatitis C treatment -- Sovaldi -- has a cure rate of up to 90 percent. But this therapy would cost patients $1,000 a day. AbbVie, another pharmaceutical company, plans to unveil their hepatitis C treatment later this year.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization published their global guidelines for hepatitis C treatment and endorsed the costly drugs for the 150 million people worldwide with the infection.

Currently, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C. Most people do not know they are infected because there are often few symptoms. However, if the hepatitis C is left untreated, the disease can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and may also require liver transplant.