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Reuters Health Information (2010-04-21): New compound potent against hepatitis C

Drug & Device Development

New compound potent against hepatitis C

Last Updated: 2010-04-21 20:00:43 -0400 (Reuters Health)

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An experimental Bristol-Myers Squibb compound called BMS-790052 is proving to be the most potent yet at treating hepatitis C, company researchers said on Wednesday.

An early, phase I safety study of the compound found it was highly effective at blocking the protein NS5A, a new target that might provide one more weapon against a virus that can quickly develop resistance.

"A lot like HIV, it is anticipated that a combination of at least three drugs will be required to prevent the emergence of resistance," said Bristol-Myers Squibb's Dr. Nicholas Meanwell, who worked on the study. A report was published online April 21st in Nature.

"We are targeting a different protein. This will provide a unique resistance profile," Dr. Meanwell said in a telephone interview.

Typical treatment of hepatitis C involves 52 weeks of interferon plus ribavirin. The combination works in only about half of all patients, and some discontinue treatment due to side effects.

The Bristol-Myers compound works differently than the protease inhibitors being developed by Merck's Schering-Plough division and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Dr. Meanwell said BMS-790052 helps inhibit the hepatitis C virus from replicating.

In a phase 1 trial, infected patients who got a single 100 mg dose of the compound saw their viral load drop by more than 99.9% within 24 hours. The reduction was sustained for 120 hours, according to the report.

Early results of a phase II study presented last week at the European Association for the Study of the Liver in Vienna were also promising. Seven out of eight patients who got the highest dose of the drug had undetectable levels of the virus. The eighth patient had stopped taking the drug for a while.

"It's got potency and effectiveness in a single dose that is unmatched by anything else," Dr. Meanwell said.

He said the findings are very early, but the hope is that the compound could be used in a cocktail of drugs to keep the virus from developing resistance long enough for patients to clear the disease.

"The data we've seen so far is extremely encouraging," he said.

Nature 2010.

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