The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Olysio (simeprevir), a new therapy to treat chronic hepatitis C virus infection.
Hepatitis C is a viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver that can lead to diminished liver function or liver failure. Most people infected with the hepatitis C virus have no symptoms of the disease until liver damage becomes apparent, which may take several years. Most of these people then go on to develop chronic hepatitis C. Some will also develop scarring and poor liver function (cirrhosis) over many years, which can lead to complications such as bleeding, jaundice (yellowish eyes or skin), fluid accumulation in the abdomen, infections or liver cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3.2 million Americans are infected with the hepatitis C virus.
Olysio is a protease inhibitor that blocks a specific protein needed by the hepatitis C virus to replicate. It is to be used as a component of a combination antiviral treatment regimen. In clinical studies, Olysio was evaluated in combination with peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin, two drugs also used to treat hepatitis C virus infection. Olysio is intended for adults with compensated liver disease (a diseased liver that is still functioning), including cirrhosis, who have not received treatment for their infection (treatment naïve) or for whom previous treatment has not been effective (treatment experienced).
“Olysio is the third FDA-approved protease inhibitor to treat chronic hepatitis C virus infection, and provides health professionals and patients with a new, effective treatment for this serious disease,” said Edward Cox, M.D., director of the Office of Antimicrobial Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
In 2011, the FDA approved Victrelis (boceprevir) and Incivek (telaprevir) for the treatment of hepatitis C. Olysio was reviewed under the FDA’s priority review program, which provides for an expedited review of drugs that, if approved, would provide safe and effective therapy when no satisfactory alternative therapy exists, or offer significant improvement compared to available therapies.
The safety and effectiveness of Olysio were evaluated in five clinical studies of 2,026 treatment-naive and treatment-experienced participants randomly assigned to receive Olysio plus peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin or placebo plus peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin. The studies were designed to measure whether a participant’s hepatitis C virus was no longer detected in the blood at least 12 weeks after finishing treatment (sustained virologic response), suggesting a participant’s infection had been cured.
Results showed 80 percent of treatment-naive participants given Olysio plus peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin achieved sustained virologic response, compared to 50 percent of participants receiving peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin alone. In one of the studies with treatment-experienced participants whose infection returned (prior relapsers), 79 percent receiving Olysio plus peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin achieved sustained virologic response compared to 37 percent of participants receiving peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin alone.
Another study examined Olysio’s safety and effectiveness in treatment-experienced participants, including prior relapsers, those who partially responded to prior therapy (partial responders) and those who did not respond to prior therapy (null responders). Adding Olysio improved response rates in each of these subgroups compared to peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin alone.
A reduction in Olysio’s effectiveness was observed in participants infected with the genotype 1a hepatitis C virus with an NS3 Q80K polymorphism, a strain of the hepatitis C virus commonly found in the United States. Olysio’s drug label includes a recommendation to screen for the presence of the strain prior to beginning therapy and to consider alternative therapy if the strain is detected.
The most common side effects reported in clinical study participants treated with Olysio in combination with peginterferon-alfa and ribavirin were rash (including photosensitivity), itching (pruritis) and nausea. Serious photosensitivity reactions resulting in hospitalization were reported. Patients will be advised to limit sun exposure and to use sun protective measures during treatment with Olysio in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Olysio should not be used alone to treat chronic hepatitis C infection.
Olysio is marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, based in Raritan, N.J. Victrelis is marketed by Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck, and Incivek is marketed by Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals.