Washington: A pair of experimental, oral antiviral drugs are safe and highly effective in the treatment of hepatitis C, a liver-damaging infectious disease, scientists have found.
Researchers said combination treatments involving a pair of experimental drugs, daclatasvir and sofosbuvir, cures toughest cases of hepatitis C.
The drug combo worked well even in the patients who are hardest to treat, in whom the conventional "triple therapy" with hepatitis C protease inhibitors, telaprevir or boceprevir, plus peginterferon and ribavirin had failed to cure the infection.
"This research paves the way for safe, tolerable and effective treatment options for the vast majority of those infected with hepatitis C," said study leader Mark Sulkowski, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Viral Hepatitis.
The research was conducted on 211 men and women with any of the three major types of the disease who were treated at 18 medical centres across the US and Puerto Rico.
Among patients with genotype 1 - the most common strain of the infection in the US - 98 per cent of the 126 previously untreated patients and 98 per cent of 41 patients whose infections remained even after the triple therapy were considered cured, with no detectable virus in their blood three months after the treatment had stopped.
Results were similar in study participants infected with genotypes 2 or 3, strains which are less common in the US.
The study participants took a daily combination of 60 milligrammes of daclatasvir and 400 milligrammes of sofosbuvir, with or without ribavirin.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved sofosbuvir in combination with peginterferon and ribavirin for the treatment of genotype 1 infection and in combination with only ribavirin for genotype 2 and 3 infection.
Daclatasvir has not yet been approved by the FDA.
The new study is one of the first to show that hepatitis C can be cured without the use of ribavirin, which is known to cause anemia, researchers said.
The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.