Complications from hepatitis C are the leading cause of death for those with HIVCDC

A phase III clinical trial has reported that a combination drug therapy cured chronic hepatitis C in the majority of patients co-infected with both HIV and hepatitis C.

Researchers and doctors enrolled 223 study participants from the United States and Puerto Rico through 34 academic, private practice and community health centres. The trial reported the clearing of the most common US strain of hepatitis C in 76% of newly treated patients over 24 weeks.

Only seven participants stopped treatment because of side effects and there were no adverse effects on HIV treatment.

There are an estimated 7 million HIV patients co-infected with hepatitis C worldwide. Complications from hepatitis C are the leading cause of death for those with HIV, according to the research.

The problem so far has been that of poor tolerance for treatments for hepatitis C, which included injections that interacted with HIV treatments. The latest combination drug -- sofosbuvir and ribavirin – results from incorporation of data from the clinical trial with FDA's approval of sofosbuvir last December.

In total, doctors administered sofosbuvir and ribavirin to a total of 223 HIV-1 patients chronically co-infected with hepatitis C (genotypes 1, 2 or 3) either for 12 weeks (for treatment-naive patients with genotype 2 or 3) or for 24 weeks (for treatment-naive patents with genotype 1 or treatment-experienced patents with genotype 2 or 3).

Twelve weeks after treatment ended, researchers tested patients again for hepatitis C infection to determine if treatment was effective.

For treatment-naive patients, 76% with genotype 1, 88% with genotype 2 and 67% with genotype 3 were cured.

Treatment-experienced patients had even better cure rates: 92% for patients with genotype 2 and 94% for patients with genotype 3.

The study is a demonstration of a cure for hepatitis C in patients with HIV without the use of interferon, which interacts with HIV treatment leading to anaemia, depression and fatigue.

The results will be published in the 23 July issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.