Expanding Organ Transplantation with Hepatitis C-Positive Donors

A recent study (AE Woolley et al NEJM 2019; 380: 1606-17) highlighted the outcomes of heart and lung transplant (uninfected) recipients of organs from HCV-infected donors (“DONATE HCV” trial).

In this study, 44 patients (36 lung transplant recipients, 8 heart transplant recipients) were treated preemptively with 4 weeks of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir to block viral replication.

Key findings:

  • 42 of 44 (95%) had a detectable viral load immediately after transplantation.
  • The first 35 (who have all completed 6 months of folllowup) all cleared HCV viremia –undetectable HCV at 6 months post-transplantation
  • No treatment-related complications were noted

In the associated editorial by EA Blumberg (1669-70), it is noted that organs for transplantation are in short supply for the more than 113,000 persons on waiting lists in the U.S.  “In 2018, only 36,500 persons received transplants…and 12,225 persons were removed from the waiting list because of death or progressive illness than rendered them” too sick for transplantation.

HCV donors will expand the donor pool substantially (up to one-third more donors) and these donors are typically younger and with fewer coexisting conditions.

My take: With the high response rate of the newer direct-acting antivirals (100% in this study) along with the (cost) effectiveness of a shorter course, this study shows how promising HCV-positive donors are for improving outcomes in patients in need of organ transplantation.  Long term data are still needed to determine if there are unforeseen problems (eg. late severe relapse of HCV, increased cardiovascular disease).

Related blog post: Increased Organ Availability Related to Opioid Epidemic

Hepatitis C -New Studies & New Recommendations (2017)

Briefly noted:

EJ Gane et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 152: 1366-71.  This phase 2, open-label study (n=53) examined the efficacy of ledipasvir plus sofusbuvir for 8 or 12 weeks for Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 2.  An SVR was noted in 96% with 12 weeks of treatment and 74% with 8 weeks of treatment.  The only patient in the 12 week group without an SVR did not complete treatment.  Overall, this study stands in contrast with the ION-3 study which showed that 8 weeks of therapy led to an SVR of 94% among genotype 1.  Thus, this study is consistent with ledpasvir having more potency against genotye 1 and the need for a 12 week course with genotype 2 HCV.

IM Jacobson et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 152: 1372-82. This retrospective study examined 402 patients with HCV genotypes 1, 4 or 6 with Child-Pugh A compensated cirrhosis who were treated with Elbasvir/GrazoprevirKey finding: SVR12 was 98% and 89% for treatment-naive and treatment-experienced patients after 12 weeks of therapy. The authors noted that baseline tests were done to look for resistance-associated substitutions (RASs).  They recommend: “GT1a patients with RASs require extension of therapy to 16 weeks and addition of ribavirin.”

IM Jacobson et al. Gastroenterol 2017; 152: 1378-87. This AGA clinical practice update makes recommendations for patients have achieved an SVR after HCV therapy. These recommendations are mainly expert opinion given the recent advent of newer treatments for HCV and lack of data regarding long-term outcomes after these treatments. Recommendations from authors:

  • SVR should be confirmed by undetectable HCV RNA at 12 weeks after treatment regimen
  • Reconfirmation of SVR at 48 weeks after treatment is recommended.
  • Surveillance for HCC with liver imaging ± AFP should be pursued twice annually for an indefinite duration in all patients with stage 3 fibrosis or liver cirrhosis post-SVR.  Surveillance is “not recommended for patients with stages 0-2 fibrosis post SVR.”
  • Endoscopic screening for varices is recommended for all patients with cirrhosis, independent of SVR. Repeat screening should be considered if no varices or small varices are noted 2-3 years later.  If there are still no varices at 2-3 years, no further endoscopic screening is recommended.

Related blog posts:

If this picture and reports are accurate, this man’s family urged him to come inside. He said he was keeping an eye on it.

 

Word of Caution with New Hepatitis C Medications

From NY Times: Are New Drugs for Hepatitis C Safe? A Report Raises Concerns

An excerpt:

Drugs approved in recent years that can cure hepatitis C may have severe side effects, including liver failure, a new report suggests. The number of adverse events appears relatively small, and the findings are not conclusive. But experts said the report was a warning that should not be ignored…

The report will be published online on Wednesday [1/25/17] by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit in Horsham, Pa., that studies drug safety. Its findings are based on the group’s analysis of the Food and Drug Administration’s database of reports from doctors around the world of adverse events that might be related to medications.

In October, the F.D.A. identified the first major safety problem caused by the nine antiviral drugs. In 24 patients, the drugs wiped out hepatitis C — but also reactivated hepatitis B infections that had been dormant. Two of those patients died, and one needed a liver transplant. The agency said there were probably additional cases that had not been reported.

As a result, the agency required that a boxed warning, its most prominent advisory, be added to the labeling of the newer antivirals, telling doctors to screen and monitor for hepatitis B in all patients taking the drugs for hepatitis C. Infection with both viruses is not common, and how the reactivation occurs is not known. The problem was not detected during premarket testing of the drugs because patients who currently had hepatitis B or who had a history of it were not allowed into the studies…

The other cases of liver failure are a separate problem. He said it was important for doctors prescribing the newer drugs to test patients’ liver function thoroughly first, because liver disease can be deceptive

My take: Overall, these newer Hepatitis C medications represent a tremendous achievement.  However, as with most medications, rare serious problems can occur and in some cases may be preventable.

Related blog posts:

From Twitter Feed-Funny Church Signs

From Twitter Feed-Funny Church Signs

Optimistic Results for Hepatitis C plus Hepatology Update

The August issue of Hepatology had several articles on Hepatitis C confirming the efficacy of newer agents:

  • LI Backus et al Hepatology 2016; 64: 405-14.  This “real-world” observational study from the VA Clinical registry with 4,365 genotype 1 treatment-naive patients who received ledipasvir/sofosbuvir showed SVR rates of 91.3% (w/o ribavirin) and 92% (w ribavirin).
  • P Kwo et al. Hepatology 2016; 64: 370-80 (OPTIMIST-1) This study showed that 12 weeks of simeprevir+sofusbuvir for 12 weeks was highly effective (97% SVR) and that 8 weeks of this therapy was inferior (83% SVR).  N=310 with genotype 1 (w/o cirrhosis).  No patients stopped therapy due to adverse effects.
  • E Lawitz et al. Hepatology 2016; 64: 360-69 (OPTIMIST-2) This study showed that simeprevir+sofusbuvir for 12 weeks was effective in genotype 1 patients (n=103) with cirrhosis.  For treatment-naive, the SVR was 88% and for treatment-experienced patients, the SVR was 79%.

Also in Hepatology:

  • S Heibani et al Hepatology 2016; 64: 549-55. This study looked at 1-week versus 2-week intervals for endoscopic ligation.  While 1-week ligation eradicated varices more quickly, neither approach was associated with differences in number of endoscopies, complications (including rebleeding) or other clinical outcomes.
From earlier study of "real-world" treatment of Genotype 1. Gastroenterol 2016; 150: 419-29.

From earlier study of “real-world” treatment of Genotype 1. Gastroenterol 2016; 150: 419-29. (Full text link)

 

Quick Take: How to Cure HCV in 99%!!

A new study shows an HCV sustained virological remission of 99% in a study of genotypes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Published Online: November 16, 2015

Here’s a terrific 2 minute summary from NEJM.

 

Does it really cost $2.6 billion to bring a new drug to market?

A recent editorial (Avorn J. NEJM 2015; 372: 1877-79) helps provide some perspective on a recent unpublished study that “it costs pharmaceutical companies $2.6 billion to develop a new drug.”  (http://csdd.tufts.edu/files/uploads/cost_study_backgrounder.pdf)

Dr. Avorn notes that when this study is published scrutiny over the methods is needed; however, the authors of the study note that their methods are unchanged from a previous 2003 study (NEJM 2015; 372: 1972). Apparently the analysis was based on data from 10 drug makers regarding compounds that they had ‘self-originated.’

Some preliminary criticisms:

  • Nearly half the costs were attributed to the cost of capitol rather than direct spending. This cost indicates that the money being used for drug development was not available for other purposes (“opportunity costs”); however, the capital costs were assessed at a very generous 10.6% per year, compounded.
  • The analysis did not include the large public subsidies provided to pharmaceutical companies in the form of research-and-development tax credits.
  • Pharmaceutical companies remain highly profitable and only spend a small fraction of their revenues on truly innovative research.
  • Many of the drugs brought to market are not “self-originated.”
  • Many drug costs are borne by the public via research at university-affiliated centers with the pharmaceutical companies taking the new discovery the last mile.  “Gilead Sciences did not invent its blockbuster treatment for hepatitis C, sofosbuvir (Sovaldi)…it acquired the product from a small company founded by the drug’s inventor, a faculty member at Emory University, much of whose work on the usefulness of nucleoside viral inhibitors was federally-funded.”

Bottomline: While pharmaceutical companies invest heavily in new drug development, the huge numbers often attributed to research costs may be overestimates; these type of analysis likely underestimate how much taxpayers have paid in subsidizing the foundation for new treatments.

Related blog post: The Difficulty with Drug Development | gutsandgrowth

 

Briefly Noted: E-Cigarette Use Increasing Rapidly in Kids & Gilead Profits

From NPR (accessed 4/24/15): The statistical findings, published in this week’s issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, come from the CDC’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. The latest survey found that the use of e-cigarettes increased from 1.1 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent in 2014 among middle school students, and from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high school students. That translates to a total of 450,000 middle school students now using e-cigs, alongside 2 million high school students.

Related blog postTobacco 21 & ENDing Combustible Tobacco Use | gutsandgrowth

 

Also, from NY Times, Gilead is making a lot of money on its Hepatitis C medications ,$4.55 billion in 1st quarter:

Sales of Gilead Sciences’ drugs to treat hepatitis C reached $4.55 billion in the first quarter, far exceeding already lofty Wall Street expectations but likely to focus attention once again on the overall costs to the health care system of the medicines.

Gilead said on Thursday that its new drug, Harvoni, had overall sales in the quarter of $3.58 billion, of which $3.02 billion was in the United States. This was the first full quarter of sales for Harvoni, which was approved in October.

Sales of Sovaldi, the older hepatitis C drug, fell to $972 million in the quarter from $2.27 billion in the first quarter of 2014 because it was supplanted by Harvoni. Combined, hepatitis C drug sales in the first quarter were double that of a year earlier.

University of Chicago

University of Chicago -Midway