What Is Boceprevir?

C. K. Lanz

Boceprevir is a treatment for chronic hepatitis C developed by Merck and sold under the brand name VICTRELIS™. It is a hepatitis C virus protease inhibitor that is administered as part of a regimen that includes ribavirin and peginterferon alfa. It works by interfering with the hepatitis C virus’s ability to replicate. This treatment was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2011.

Boceprevir is a treatment for chronic hepatitis C, which can be caused by exposure to unsterilized piercing tools.
Boceprevir is a treatment for chronic hepatitis C, which can be caused by exposure to unsterilized piercing tools.

Patients with chronic hepatitis C who still have some liver function are candidates for boceprevir. These patients either have not been treated with drug therapy or have not responded to a medication regimen. Boceprevir is approved for use only with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.

This medication is taken orally three times a day with food. Patients begin taking boceprevir in the fifth week of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin treatment. The initial dose is usually 800 milligrams, but the dosing may be adjusted in weeks eight, 12, and 24, depending on a patient’s virus levels. The treatment regimen can last up to 48 weeks.

Boceprevir is a protease inhibitor that must be used with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. It binds to the hepatitis C virus and keeps it from multiplying. Common side effects include fatigue and anemia, nausea, and change in taste. Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant should not take boceprevir because it can cause birth defects or death in unborn children.

Patients should be candid with their doctors about any medications, including vitamins and supplements, that they are taking prior to starting treatment with boceprevir. The drug can interfere with many medications, like certain anti-seizure drugs as well as herbal remedies like St. John’s wort. Other medications such as atorvastatin can be taken with boceprevir under the supervision of a medical professional.

Prior to FDA approval, this drug was tested in three clinical trials involving 1,500 adult patients. Two-thirds of patients who received boceprevir with pegylated interferon and ribavirin did not show signs of the virus in their blood 24 weeks after stopping treatment. This type of sustained virologic response suggests that the hepatitis infection is cured and can lead to a decrease in complications of liver disease, liver cancer, and cirrhosis.

Chronic hepatitis C is a viral disease that results in liver inflammation and develops after an initial infection. Over time, this can cause decreased liver function and eventual liver failure. Most patients do not develop any symptoms until liver damage begins. Symptoms include jaundice, liver cancer, and accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area.

This virus can be contracted by exposure to infected blood, unsterilized tattoo or piercing tools, and sharing personal items like a toothbrush with an infected individual. A baby born to an infected mother can also contract hepatitis C. There are approximately 3.2 million people infected with chronic hepatitis C as of 2011 in the United States according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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