Saturday, February 12, 2011

This Itching Is Driving Me Nuts!

I can't stop scratching! My arms, back, feet, stomach, scalp - you name it, I've scratched it until it's red and sore. I've taken to wearing my pajamas inside-out, because the tiniest bit of rough edge along the seams is too itchy. My family can't stand it and neither can I.

I have pruritus, which is an extrahepatic manifestation of Hep C. According to a fact sheet at
... Pruritus is one of the most common symptoms reported by people with hepatitis C (20%), but is more commonly found in people with advanced liver disease and cirrhosis. Pruritus is itching that may be localized to a specific part of the body such as hands and feet, but it can also be a generalized itching all over the body. Some people even report that it feels like their internal organs itch. Pruritus can be related to high bilirubin levels, autoimmune disease or dry skin, and can be a side effect of treatment. Use of moisturizing lotions, oatmeal baths or lotions, antihistamines, and cortisone creams and opiate drugs can help.
I scratched myself all night, so I'm going to slather on some moisturizer and try to take a nap now. Fingers crossed.

Photo by Orrling

Friday, February 11, 2011

FDA Gives Two New Hep C Medications Priority Review Status

Back in 2006, when I had my liver transplant, the heptologists at my transplant center told my husband and me that a new medication for treating Hepatitis C was in clinical trials and would be available the following year. We heard the same news in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Our skepticism is understandable, don't you agree?

Yet it appears that in 2011 our long wait will end. The FDA is giving Priority Review status to telaprevir, which was developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals for people with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C. In addition, Prioirity Review has been given to boceprevir, an oral hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitor developed by Merck.

The FDA gives Priority Review designation " drugs that offer major advances in treatment, or provide a treatment where no adequate therapy exists... The goal for completing a Priority Review is six months." The target review date for telaprevir is May 23, 2011 (I could not find a review date for boceprevir).

Both medications show better cure rates and, for some people, reduce the treatment time. Furthermore, they will be the first drugs that directly target the Hepatitis C virus.

I don't know how quickly the drugs will reach the market after FDA approval but I hope it doesn't take long. My poor liver has taken enough abuse from this devastating virus.

Photo by Nina Briski

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Genetic Research and Treatment for Hepatitis C

When my doc told me that she was adding a genetic test to my standing lab work order - specifically, to identify the IL-28B polymporphism - I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. I was unaware that genetic testing was being conducted on Hepatitis C issues. Go, researchers!

Studies on this topic were released at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) held last Oct./Nov. in Boston. In its coverage of the conference, provides a solid overview of IL-28B:
The IL28B rs12979860 SNP has 2 variations, or alleles, "C" and "T." Hepatitis C patients with the homozygous or matching C/C pattern (2 copies of the "C" allele) are most likely to spontaneously clear HCV and have the best response to interferon-based therapy. People with the T/T pattern (2 "T" alleles) have the least favorable response, while those with the heterozygous or mixed C/T pattern (1 copy of each variation) fall in between.
It appears that doctors will increasingly rely on the this test as they determine treatment strategies for Hep C. Such is the case for me. The test revealed that I am C/T. Given the outcome of my biopsy and this blood test, what treatment will be best for me? I'll find out in two weeks when I meet with my doctor.