Lab tests suggest over-the-counter antihistamine could offer alternative to pricey new drugs
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Randy Dotinga
WEDNESDAY, April 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary lab research suggests a hay fever drug that costs about 50 cents a pill has the potential to treat hepatitis C, a stubborn disease that has spawned drugs that sell for $1,000 a dose.
It's too early to know if the antihistamine chlorcyclizine HCI will work in people as a treatment for hepatitis C. Still, the new research suggests that "the drug blocks the virus getting into cells and is different from the current hepatitis C drugs, which block viral replication," said study co-author Dr. T. Jake Liang, a senior investigator with the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Moreover, "this drug complements the existing hepatitis C drugs and can be used in combination with them," Liang added.
Hepatitis C often leads to serious liver complications such as cirrhosis. Some expensive new medications are "astonishingly effective" with cure rates of more than 90 percent, said Dr. Douglas Dieterich, a professor of liver diseases at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
But the pills are more than $1,000 each and need to be taken for weeks, potentially costing $84,000 to $93,000, a recent analysis found. While more drugs are in the pipeline, Dieterich said they're likely to be just as pricey.
About 3.2 million Americans have hepatitis C, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One recent study put the cost of getting the new drugs to patients at $65 billion over just five years.
For now, "only those with more advanced liver disease are obtaining access, due to high drug costs and restrictive policies of many public and private insurance carriers," said Dr. Joseph Lim, director of the viral hepatitis program at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.
Liang and his team have tried to determine if new uses of existing drugs might work to treat the disease. In this study, they grafted human liver cells into mice to test the allergy drug.
source : Cheap Allergy Drug May Hold Potential as Hepatitis C Treatment