Hepatitis C: The Post Interferon World has Five Scoops of Good News

Hep C:  The Post Interferon World is Five Scoops of Good News

  1.  Increased number of patients screened and identified
  2.  Increased options for those who failed previous therapies
  3.  Improved patient compliance
  4.  Possibilities of patient-guided treatment
  5.  Decreased need for liver transplantation
Donna Reed on Laundry day.  Now her modern day peers can get tested.

Donna Reed on Laundry day. Now her modern day peers can get tested.

  •   I quit writing my blog when I saw the first ad for Hepatitis C treatment on television. The representative people were not parrot heads or crack heads. They were typical ad people like Crestor or Nexium. These ads will bring people in for testing and treatment.  The early treatment decreases transplantation demands. But there is still a lot of Hepatitis C news, so I am back.

A friend of mine started round four of treatment three days ago and she is scared.  Because of Interferon and depression, she could not complete previous treatments. No pledge from me or her physician made a dent in her fear but time will show her. Her new protocol doesn’t call for Interferon, and she is on preventive anti-depression medication. The three drug cocktail for her is one of many not available six months ago, a bygone era.

I recall Fridays during treatment, Interferon injection days. Bathing and grooming started on Wednesdays. I could schedule most work meetings (via telephone) for Thursday and Friday. There is much compliance built around Interferon day. For me, there came the day I could not  work and Friday no longer mattered. Unfortunately leaving work isn’t always an available solution. I lost my career when I returned and I was still sick from drugs. Luckily I retired with benefits.  When I went through treatment # 2, I wasn’t working and could get all the rest required. In the post Interferon world of (mostly) no Interferon and ribavirin this may not be an issue, thus better patient compliance, and cure.

 

And now about patient-guided therapy and no you do not get to select from a menu. For those of you following genotyping using IL2b.  Researchers predict (I love that phrase) which treatments will work best in your body.  That will partially determine the treatment drugs for you, thus ruling out waste-of-time and money treatments.

Be sure to visit my friends at http://www.hepatitiscnews.com  They have great usable info and practical application.  They carry my blog too.

https://us-mg4.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch?.rand=084ro4ia0h0pr#1

Kentaro Matsuura, Tsunamasa Watanabe, Yasuhito Tanaka

Disclosures

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014;29(2):241-249. 

Hep C Treatment: Do We Or Don’t We? And Who the Hell Does Egypt Know That We Don’t?

I’m going to  ask you to hang with me on this one.  It is a lesson in pharmaceutical pricing and what your insurance will/can pay. Medicaid can’t! 

I worked in Big Pharma Research and Medical Affairs for a quarter century.  So? I see pricing strategies for Hepatitis C treatment compounds and they will affect you.  Let’s look at:

  1. Pricing Strategies for Big Pharma, and they DO have one for who, how much, and how long
  2. How some get to bypass this pricing strategy entirely
  3. Why patients will unnecessarily suffer with this curable Hep C

These days you can’t swing a cat without uncovering a new treatment on the horizon!  Good! Right?  Mostly.  Big Pharma competitors have a short time on top and intend to make  as much profit for stakeholders (stock holders)as possible.  It is the job.

Remember when Vertex launched Incivek (telaprevir) fourteen months ago?  First new drug in forever.  All new patients were given Incivek along with the standard cocktail of Interferon/Ribavirin.  Vertex was the new darling in hepatology, for a year. Sales went from $76.1 Million Q 1 2013 to $44.3 Million Q 4 2013. Now they have dropped out of Hep C research because there is a new rock star launch; Gilead Sciences with Sovaldi (sofusbuvir).

“Record sales of a new hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, pushed the first-quarter earnings of Gilead Sciences far beyond expectations, the company reported on Tuesday, Sovaldi (sofusbuvir), the company’s $1,000-a-pill medicine to treat hepatitis C, had sales of $2.27 billion in the first quarter, the company said in a statement. That beat an average of analyst estimates by more than $1 billion. The Foster City, California-based company also reported profit excluding certain items of $1.48 a share, beating by 56 cents the analysts’ average estimate (GILD:US). (Yes that is Billion not Million.) The hepatitis C sales are “above even the high end of buy-side expectations,” Mark Schoenebaum, an analyst with ISI Group LLC in New York, said in a note to clients. He called it the best drug introduction in history. Gilead, the world’s biggest makers of HIV drugs, yesterday reported total first-quarter revenue of $5 billion.

Gilead is awaiting U.S. regulatory approval of a two-drug combination with Sovaldi that does away with shots that boost the immune system, yet produce side effects. Company executives said they are aware of the price criticism and the sustainability of spending on the drug. “There are natural limits on what I think is appropriate for next generation products,” Chief Operating Officer John Milligan said yesterday on a conference call.”

 

“If cost were not a factor, we would want to treat the entire population,” said Dr. Rena Fox, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She said it was frustrating that “we finally get this great treatment and then we withhold it.” 

Ah,  my point exactly.

And then there is Egypt. Yes that Egypt.

On March 12 the Egyptians declared  that negotiations between the ministry and the American company were successful and Egypt will obtain the drug for only 1 percent of its price internationally, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm. Adawy, Minister.  The price of a one-month prescription in Egypt will cost $300 while in the U.S. it costs $28,000 a month. (Yes that is Hundred, not Thousand).  The full course will cost $13,000 instead of the $168,000 it costs in the U.S.. They agreed to support making hepatitis c a top priority and to intensify efforts to provide the required medicine at “affordable prices”. According to Reuters, Gilead said on March 22 that it was “pleased to have finalized an agreement” to provide the cure to Egypt, one of the countries with the highest rate of hepatitis C patients.

 

 

May 6, 2014:  Janssen Submits Supplemental New Drug Application to U.S. FDA for OLYSIO™ (Simeprevir) for Once-Daily Use in Combination with Sofosbuvir for 12 Weeks for the Treatment of Adult Patients with Genotype 1 Chronic Hepatitis C. AbbVie, Merck, Bristol-Meyers-Squibb and Johnson & Johnson have potential treatments on the horizon. This is why Gilead is gouging now.  Big Pharma calls it recouping research money. Some is profit too.   It’s all perspective.  Which a Hep C patient is sorely missing.

I shit you not. Thanks for hanging with me on Big Pharma Pricing.  Now you can teach MBA students.  I am feeling powerless though.  Maybe you know someone in Egypt.

One last thought:  I am clear of Hep C Virus after two years and I wish this for you.

Go see my friends at http://www.hepatitiscnews.com  They have great helpful news all the time!

hcvnewdrugs@gmail.com

 

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-04-22/gilead-beats-hepatitis-c-sales-estimates-by-1-billion

 

http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/vertex-profits-one-time-gain-despite-plummeting-incivek-sales/2014-01-29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hepatitis C: Does “No Detectable Virus” Equal Cure Or Is It Smoke?

Am I cured or is it just smoke?

Hepatitis C cure?

 If my hepatitis C virus test shows non-detectable virus 6 months after the end of treatment, am I negative?  Will I  stay negative?  Am I cured?  In the recent past only “non-detectable virus” was declared. Now doctors are adding “cure” to the jargon.  This is with the addition of Incivek and Victrelis, and depending on the discussion.  No two clinical trials are alike and so Hepatitis C researchers use (they say utilize) sustained viralogical response (SVR) to compare outcomes.  Most trial design is by the company developing the drug.  One goal is to ask the study questions just right to get scientific and marketable answers.  “GodZillapravir had a non-detectable  SVR at weeks 12 and 24 in 85% of patients including those with mild to moderate cirrhosis”. “KingKongViracide cleared Hepatitis C virus in 94% of patients at 24 weeks including children 12 to 18 years of age”.  Which is the better drug?  You can’t tell by the claims because two different patient populations and time lines .  But they have  SVR in common.  That is why researchers use SVR.  BTW I made up the examples.  Now don’t get down on industry just yet.  Academics are accountable to department heads and medical journals.  That can be as powerful as a stockholder.

Industry is different: Stock holders in towers

When it comes to patients , the word “Cure” has emerged because research shows that if you have no detectable virus after six months, the chances of Hep C returning is about 1-2%.  And the argument is that it was never cleared, just so low that it was undetectable.

So with Hepatitis what does this mean?

Successful treatment for Hepatitis C hasn’t been available for long, so doctors are just starting to understand the long-term outcomes.  Do cancer survivors say cured?  I think they say  cancer-free for 2 years, 5 years, etc.  Am I a Hepatitis C survivor or am I cured?  Is it still a pre-existing condition?   A research site, not insurance, paid for my treatments.  But my medical records say Hepatitis C.

So at 24 weeks can I tell the insurance company that I no longer have Hepatitis C?  I can’t find the answer to that question without talking to them directly. I will wait until 2014 (I think that is the year) when they cannot cancel me for pre-existing conditions.  Insurance politics are so confusing, I am not clear if that stipulation is on the potential chopping block.  In speaking with my mental  Dr, I realize that I do not have confidence in my treatment and I am waiting for it to come back.  I am at 4 1/2 months post treatment.   I have been Hep C positive for so long, I don’t know how to have a future in which chronic debilitating illness isn’t a key player.  What is the world like with only mild hypertension and chronic but manageable depression?

Below is a good article for defining end-of-treatment terms, although it is a bit dated.  Newer drugs are not addressed but the terms are the same.

 Hepatitis C: What Is a Sustained Virologic Response or “SVR”? (From Charles  Daniel, former About.com GuideSVR) 

SVR is the closest you’ll get to “a cure” for hepatitis C.
 Sustained virologic response, or SVR, is the goal of hepatitis C treatment.  Conventional treatment (a combination of interferon and ribavirin) doesn’t  necessarily eliminate the hepatitis C virus from your liver. It can, however,  suppress the virus to undetectable levels for an extended period of time. In clinical language, this is called a “sustained virologic response,” or sustained  response. It means that during the six months after you complete treatment,  there is no detectable hepatitis C virus in your blood.                                         SVR is a good thing.
Studies have shown that with a six-month SVR (which means no detectable virus in your blood for six months after finishing treatment), relapse occurred in only 1-2% of patients. So, for every 100 people who finished treatment and attained SVR, the virus will return in only 2 of them. However, for these people, the
virus never really left. The medicine was able to eliminate most of the virus (so much that medical tests couldn’t detect it), but after treatment ended, for whatever reason the virus was able to continue replicating itself.

Early SVR is beneficial
Since the liver has incredible regenerative ability, achieving SVR
 as quickly as possible is important. This is important because some liver damage can be reversed if the cause of the damage is removed. After SVR is reached and depending on the degree of damage from the virus, the risk of hepatocellular cancer is reduced and about 25% of people see an improvement in fibrosis.

SVR compares one treatment to another. For those in treatment, SVR is the goal. However, for physicians and scientists researching new hepatitis treatments, SVR is also used to evaluate new medicines and compare them with proven therapies.
 For example, depending on the genotype, treatment with interferon alone usually achieves SVR in 15% of the patients. When interferon is combined with ribavirin in the same genotype, SVR is increased to 70% in some people.

Jana L. Lee, R.N., CCRC Clinical Research Nurse St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital Advanced Liver Therapies, my practical answer source and demon fighter.

http://www.hepcadvocacy.org/factsheets/HepatitisC.pdf

http://hepatitis.about.com/bio/Charles-Daniel-37713.htm

The Hepatitis C Screen Door Swings Two Ways

My father-in-law wanted Viagra.  He wouldn’t shut up about it.  My mother-in-law finally said “Then what?  You’re not getting on me”  eewww, the visual for me….

So we screen for Hepatitis C, then what?

Attention Baby Boomers: The Centers For Disease Control (CDC), the group that tracks bird and swine flu, is thinking about screening you for Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is particularly dangerous because it is a silent killer. It can live for decades in a person’s body, slowly destroying the liver, while causing few symptoms,” said Dr. John Ward, director of the CDC’s division of viral hepatitis.

The new guidelines are expected to identify more than 800,000 infections, prevent 100,000 cases of cirrhosis, prevent more than 50,000 cases of liver cancer, and save more than 120,000 lives. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

The relatively inexpensive blood test is “a small investment now for a big benefit later,” Ward said.

The CDC believes routine blood tests will address the largely preventable consequences of the disease, especially in light of newly available therapies that can cure around 75 percent of infections.

The field has attracted broad interest with two new hepatitis C drugs, Incivek from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc and Merck & Co’s Victrelis, reaching the U.S. market in the past year.

Sorry about the blur, link at bottom if you are interested

Should we screen for Hepatitis C in patients over 50?  There is no vaccine, the standard treatment of Interferon/Ribavirin is about  $60,000 and the eradication rate about 40-50% in the most common genotype (1).  Adding  Boceprevir (Victrelis) is $1,000 a week (x 24 weeks = $24,000). Telaprevir (Incivik) is $4,100 per week (x 24 weeks = $98,000).  So treatment =  $80,000 to $158,000.  They must be really proud of Telaprevir.  At that price they may have to keep it.  All of this assumes 24 week treatment but it is common practice for those on Interferon/Ribavirin to go 48 weeks ($120,000 for dual therapy)

 

These are all rounded numbers and this does not include anything but the drug.  Side effects are horrible.  A few are nausea/vomiting/diarrhea/depression/suicidal and homicidal thoughts/hair loss/anemia/insomnia . The new drugs add full body rash, rectal itching and/or rectal bleeding.  (This reminds me of the old treatments for syphilis: mercury and arsenic).   Many patients cannot hang and drop out. Jobs are lost, families strained and the patients overwhelmed. And then there is that pesky liver transplant for those beyond pharmacologic help (drugs).

But there are currently over 4 million people infected in the US and the largest group are over 50 with long-term damage.  And there are new tests and treatments.  For instance, researchers recently identified a specific DNA sequence in the gene that codes an immune response regulator, called IL28b. Different IL28b sequences predict whether treatment will successfully clear the virus.

With that in mind Goldhaber-Fiebert and Liu of Stanford created a computer model looking for the line at where it makes sense to go through treatment.  Remember that these people think in terms of how many patients out of 1,00 people, not what YOU should do.

After intense statistical and simulation analysis, the model showed that the new triple therapies were indeed cost-effective for chronic hepatitis C patients with advanced liver disease. Despite the large price tag and side effects, the new treatments help these patients avoid costly cancers and liver transplants — as well as allowing them to live longer, higher-quality lives.

For those patients with mild disease, the model indicated that determining their IL-28B genotype is the best next step, before prescribing a treatment.  The closer the threat of severe disease, the more justified treatment costs and risks become, said Goldhaber-Fiebert. “That would be the bottom line.”

Though these new drugs may offer relatively desirable options now, both Goldhaber-Fiebert and Liu noted that additional, and perhaps more effective, drugs are already in clinical trials.”

So in the “State-The-Obvious” department  they conclude: “As more and better treatments become available, the decision will continue to evolve, requiring further analysis, patients and health systems could also benefit from price competition with multiple treatment options available. But ultimately, treatment decisions will remain a private conversation between a doctor and a patient. “

A bit chicken shit but common in the academic world.  All studies end in “Further research is needed”.  Which is academic speak for “See you at the next medical conference where I will have more data”.  Note the reference to “health systems”.  This includes the insurance company.

Now, as a taxpayer, I wonder where the money is coming from. You can see one reason a clinical trial is an attractive option.  I didn’t pay a nickel.  In fact they paid my gas and parking.  BTW my results from 12 week post treatment just came back “No detectable virus”.  So why do I have a trace of cynicism about drug companies pushing for testing?

My mom used to yell, “close the screen door, you are letting the flies out”.  I always thought that was funny. Regarding screening and insurance that may be true but not so funny.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_125350.html

http://health.yahoo.net/news/s/nm/all-baby-boomers-should-get-tested-for-hepatitis-c-cdc

http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/february/hepatitis.html

Ungrateful Bastard that I am…Hepatitis C

You Bastard, you killed Kenny

Hepatitis C treatment ended five weeks ago.  All is going well (~ nothing is wrong).  Went to Costa Rica with grand kids, hiked (slowly) up mountain sides.  Thank you Symbicort and red blood cells.  Now home.  I want to lay in guest bedroom (my sick room), watch recorded TV shows and eat sugar.  What’s up with that?  Fighting some mental and physical depression.  Back up.  Not necessarily so…anytime things are caddy wampass I frighten myself with the depression (DEBression) stick.  Kinda like a boogie man under the bed.

Ungrateful bastard that I am, I want to just “be okay”.  WTF does that mean?  Everyone who is “okay” raise your something.  Last time I re-uped for life post-treatment, I slowly weeded the front garden to demonstrate focus and progress to myself.  It took a week.  Currently it is 108 F heat index…so the hell with that.  I go to bed and get up the same time everyday.  Learning how to fall asleep naturally.  Not true…trying to learn how to fall asleep.  I’ve always had some distressing insomnia.  Maybe that contributed to my drinking a quarter century ago.  Maybe not. Currently I’m on two non sedating antidepressants and one sedating, slowly weaning off.  I can hear AA people judging.  Ta hell with ’em. Note to self:   What other people think of me is of no consequence.

You’d think I’d be more sensitive to the term bastard.  I’m not.  One thing I’m clear about, being born out-of-wedlock is not my burden.  Not sure I knew that 30-40 years ago.  And views change.

“Now more than half of all births to American women under 30 are born out of wedlock, and the trend in marriage-less birth is becoming an accepted reality of American life.” Don’t you love marriage-less over out of wedlock?  I wonder which group with an axe to grind is funding this.

“According to an analysis of government data, conducted by the research group Child Trends and reported by The New York Times, the last 20 years have seen illegitimacy among white women in their 20s with some college — but not a full four-year degree — rise more quickly than in other groups.”  …gotta love the internet.

Ah, yet another chapter in “Me-Me-Me”  My favorite subject, I am afraid.  Better keep dancing with the psychiatrist a bit longer. 

http://www.mysymbicort.com/

“You bastard, you killed Kenny”http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=1A6f3jHTC-Y

http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-02-21/home/31081751_1_illegitimacy-black-children-unmarried-women

Snoop Dog, Come On Down!

Don't forget to spay and neuter your petsBeing in bed 24/7 without the ability to lift your head will cause your brain to accept the unacceptable…Reality TV Shows.  I began to watch them as though watching a poorly rehearsed train wreck.  In horror, I couldn’t look away.  At first it was a Project Runway  seven-hour marathon which I slobbered and dozed through.  Then Yard Crashers/Bath Crashers/House Crashers/Income Property/Dear Genevieve/Run My Renovation (RMR).  I even submitted to RMR on line…But they don’t really send out cute Joni.  In fact they don’t do anything and that is good.  I can’t imagine a reality show at my house with me on hepatitis c treatment. ” Hello, pretend the camera’s not in your face and tell us how happy you are with your new environment friendly parrot poop kitchen.  The newspaper floor’s recyclable”.

Going through hepatitis c treatment is sort of like going through labor.  There would be zero population growth if women could remember the first one.  I have one child.  She was born full breech.  I remember.  So why go through a second round of hep c treatment?  Fear of the pain of a cirrhotic death.  Again pain avoidance.  I can’t believe I used the old “going through labor”  analogy.  I hate it when women do that.  I won’t even have lunch with those women.  Shut the Fuck Up!

I had lofty dreams for this down time: learn Spanish, keep a diary, write a book, plan a big trip, read a couple of classics, walk every day, meditate.  What was I thinking?  That I was just gonna have a fractured spine?  I’ve had that and got back on the horse, no shit.

DIY: I couldn’t do shit but got it in my head that my bedroom needed french doors, the living room color was too dark (Osso Buco) and the dining area needed a skylight.  I hated the bed sconces, was sick of the plaster patch on the ceiling and the thumping ceiling fan.  All must be fixed right now (I know, redundant).  Even in the best of health, I cannot do anything myself. My dad told me years ago, when I was trying to help him remodel my house “Good thing you went to school”  Truer words were never spoken.   Poor Spanky tried to explain the error of my crazy thinking process without me going straight to sobbing.  I have no  explanation for the sobbing.  Except to say that my every emotion could and would leap tall logic in a single bound.

Cooking shows:  I watched them and it looked so easy.  Giada, Ina, Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen (my favorite because it is a comedy too), Top Chef, Chef Roble, Chopped, Chopped Champions.  I couldn’t watch Iron Chef, too many moving parts.  Why would I watch cooking shows when I couldn’t stand the taste or smell of food? I don’t know.  I dropped 20 pounds and never moved.  Basal metabolic rate.

I couldn’t watch my favorite game show,  Jeopardy.  I felt like I stroked and couldn’t find my answers.   Couldn’t watch  The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  It required knowledge of current events to get the jokes.    Couldn’t watch movies with a story line.  The Marx brothers were good but again too many moving parts.  I found myself watching Ice Loves Coco with Ice T (my personal bottom)  and The Price Is Right with Drew Carey. I shit you not.   Drew Effing Carey!  Snoop Dog was on for his charity.  That man knew the price of everything from Zesta saltines to a Harley.  He won $75K for an old lady.  I think she shit herself on stage.

How did I get from “I don’t watch TV” to “The Price is Right”?

Yep, Snoop Dog on Price is Right. I thought it was the drugs

How did Drew Carey get from here to The Price Is Right???

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t read, the books were too heavy and my concentration too light.  During the second treatment I listened to books on tape.  The important issue was the sound of the reader’s voice.

At the kids section of the library I got books  on how to draw.  I sat in bed and drew dinosaurs, flying squirrels and bunny rabbits.  I drew the two trees in the pasture through our three seasons.  Then with the drought last year, I drew them dead.   My art work was terrible,  but that wasn’t the point. Since my analytical brain was pithed, I went to my dormant-since-five-year-old creative brain. I now have a closet full of art stuff/supplies and I like it. I never show my stuff to anyone but Spanky.  He never judges.  He calls me an artist. It makes me squirm. I hung one painting on the wall (on a push-pin) but not where folks would notice.  I still listen to books on tape a lot.  Still can’t sleep.

Don’t forget to spay and neuter your pets Bob Barker.  BTW, turns out Drew Carey has a blog.  Don’t we all?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Loves_Coco

http://bitchinlifestyle.tv/

http://www.drewfromtv.blogspot.com/

We are in the Hepatitis C Virus Killing Business and Business is Good.

This fellow’s photo is here to encourage you to stick around to read the stuff below.

My Mamaw took Bufferin for  her “sick headaches”.  In looking back I realize she had migraines.  One day after coming out of the darkened bedroom, fixing her bun, she said  “How do it know where to go?”.  This is a woman who gave birth to 11 kids at home.

Mamaw Ora Mae Morris. I loved that woman. She smelled like biscuits.

The main reason to endure treatment is to kill the virus and get on with life.  With the addition of Bocephevir (Victrelis)  and Telaprevir (Incivek) , chances of clearing the virus have improved.  But, even if this isn’t achieved, there are other benefits:

  •  slow down the disease,
  • reduce or reverse liver damage
  • , reduce risk of liver cirrhosis/cancer,
  •  reduce need for liver transplant.

So how do we know the Hep C drugs are killing the virus?  “How do it know where to go?”

 Your blood is checked at the milestones listed above.  If the drugs are working, the viral load will go down.

Resist the urge to glaze over the terms below. Insist that someone on the treatment team explain the lingo to you. If that person can’t explain it, they shouldn’t be there. This is the language of your doctor when talking of your Hep C treatment results.

VL = Baseline Viral Load:  Amount of virus in your blood before treatment

RVR = Rapid Viral Response: The faster the response the better the chance of getting to cure.  This is assessed at 4 weeks

EVR = Early Viral Response: How you respond after 12 weeks of treatment.

SVR = Sustained Viral Response: No detectable virus 6 months after completion of treatment.  This is my next hurdle.

Resources:
  • Jana Lee, RN, CCRN, Advanced Liver Therapies, Houston