May 30, 2013

Widen care network to help target hepatitis C

Boston Globe

Letters

May 29, 2013

Your May 27 editorial “Rhode Island: Targeting a baby-boomer scourge” highlights the prevalence of the hepatitis C virus in baby boomers. The majority of new cases are between 48 and 68 years old, and most are unaware that they carry the virus. At the Boston Public Health Commission, we encourage all those born between 1945 and 1965 to get tested by their doctor, and we work to connect those without a primary care provider to care.

However, as many as 40 percent of people have not seen their primary care provider in a given year but have visited a dentist. That’s why we look for innovative ways to reach people with information about hepatitis C and testing.

Dentists and other oral health providers have a unique opportunity to provide information and link people to testing and care. With a variety of different health care professionals raising the topic of the hepatitis C virus with their patients, we hope to increase the number of those tested and linked to treatment.

Helene Bednarsh – Director - HIV dental program - Boston Public Health - Commission

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Can radiation therapy help resolve the liver cancer 'paradox'?

Bryant Furlow

May 29, 2013

Incidence and mortality of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are increasing rapidly, and HCC is now the third leading cause of cancer death.1 While localized, HCC is potentially curable with surgery, liver transplantation, or radiofrequency ablation.2 Tragically, HCC represents a unique paradox in clinical practice, notes Theodore S. Hong, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts. Although HCC is localized within the liver at diagnosis, few patients (less than 30%) are candidates for potentially curable treatment strategies.1,2 The reason for this is largely because in most cases localized HCC is diagnosed only after tumors have become multifocal, large (greater than 10 cm), and invade the vasculature, which is often associated with tumor thrombus.2 Frequently, comorbidities (and risk factors for HCC) such as hepatitis B or C infection, alcohol abuse, and liver cirrhosis also compromise liver function and limit treatment options2 (Table 1). Liver cirrhosis eventually develops into HCC in 5% of patients with the condition; however, up to 80% of patients with HCC have underlying liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis-associated HCC is usually multifocal.5

Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE) can improve survival times for patients with HCC who are not candidates for surgery and whose tumors have not led to major vascular thrombosis.1 Among those patients with HCC who are not candidates for TACE, sorafenib (Nexavar) may improve 1-year survival by 15%.1 However, neither TACE nor sorafenib is curative; tumor progression is nearly universal despite these interventions.1

Table 1. Risk Factors for hepatocellular carcinoma

α-fetoprotein (aFp) >50 ng/ml
Age >40 years
Alcohol use
Asian ethnicity (for patients with underlying liver disease)
Diabetes mellitus
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis C
Liver cirrhosis
Male sex
Tobacco use

RADIOTHERAPY OPTIONS

Until recently, the risk of radiation-induced liver disease (RILD) precluded external-beam radiotherapy as a treatment option for most patients with HCC.2 Historically, two-dimensional (2D) radiography treatment planning involved large treatment volumes and precluded the determination of volumetric dose-toxicity relationships in the liver.2 Delivery of potentially curative doses of ionizing radiation to tumor tissues required irradiation of relatively large volumes of nontarget liver tissue, increasing the likelihood of RILD.

But with 3D computed tomography (CT)-based treatment planning and improvements in the conformally targeted delivery of radiation doses to tumor tissue contours, radiotherapy has emerged as a more promising solution to the HCC treatment conundrum, and is becoming a more commonly used modality for HCC.2,6 In conjunction with 3D planning tools, clinical trials and evidence-based planning to reduce the risk of RILD were also developed.2 Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) allows HCC radiotherapy delivery in fewer than six dose fractions.1,2

A new report of results from phase 1 and phase 2 nonrandomized clinical trials provide additional support for cautious optimism that SBRT is a viable option for patients who are not candidates for surgery or other curative-intent treatments.1 Among those patients who are not candidates for surgery, TACE, or radiofrequency ablation, SBRT can yield improved survival rates with low risk of serious toxicity, according to Alexis Bujold, MD, of the Princess Margaret Hospital, University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues.1 Their trials enrolled 101 patients with localized HCC, more than 50% of whom had tumor vascular thrombus and a Cancer Liver Italian Program (CLIP) score of 2-4, and the median diameter of their largest tumors was 7.2 cm.1

CLIP is one of several staging systems that, unlike traditional TNM staging, account for liver function status as well as tumor morphology and extent; the inclusion of functional criteria is believed to improve prognostic utility.7,8 CLIP combines Child-Turcotte-Pugh (CTP) functional cirrhosis assessment scores (Table 2) with assessment of portal vein tumor invasion, number of tumors (imaged nodules), degree of liver involvement, and α-fetoprotein levels, assigning each of these factors a value of 0, 1, or 2 as follows.8

  • CTP score Stage A, 0 points; stage B, 1 point; stage C, 2 points.
  • Tumor morphology One nodule, 0 points; multinodular, 1 point; massive tumors or extension greater than 50%, 2 points.
  • α-fetoprotein level Less than 400 ng/mL, 0 points; 400 mg/mL or more, 1 point.
  • Portal vein tumor thrombosis No, 0 points; yes, 1 point.

The values are added together to yield an overall CLIP score. Lower CLIP scores are associated with better patient prognosis.8

Table 2. Calculating the CTP score for cirrhosis severity

Pointsa

1
2
3
Albumin
>3.5 g/dl
2.8-3.5 g/dl
<2.8 g/dl
Ascites
none
Mild/moderate
(diuretic-responsive)

Severe
(diuretic-refractory)

Bilirubin
<2 mg/dl
2-3 mg/dl
>3 mg/dl
PT (sec prolonged)
or INR

<4
4-6
>6
<1.7
1.7-2.3
2.3
aChild-Turcotte-pugh (CTP) score is obtained by adding the scores of each parameter. CTP class: A, 5-6 points; B, 7-9 points; C, 10-15 points.
Key: CTP, Child-Turcotte-Pugh; INR, international normalized ratio; PT, prothrombin time; sec, second.

In spite of the high-risk status of the study populations, Bujold's team reported achieving a 1-year local tumor control rate of 87% with SBRT.1 Grade 3+ adverse events occurred in 30% of the trial participants (grade 3, 26.5%; grade 4, 2.9%), with seven deaths possibly related to treatment.1 A total of 11 patients experienced serum AST/ALT abnormalities (all grade 3), nine patients experienced grade 3 platelet abnormalities, and five patients experienced grade 3 or 4 bilirubin abnormali-ties.1 Other grade 3+ toxicities were rare, affecting two or fewer patients.1 Median overall survival was 17 months (10.4 to 21.3 months).1 Although promising, the authors noted that the results should be confirmed in a randomized clinical trial.

CONCLUSION

The findings contribute to a growing body of evidence that durable local control of liver tumors can be achieved with radiation.2 Liver transplantation and partial hepatectomy clearly remain the gold standards for curative-intent treatment of HCC, Hong wrote; how-ever, in light of the new study, SBRT appears to be an additional alternative treatment for patients who are not candidates for curative-intent interventions, and results in outcomes com-parable to treatment with sorafenib in patients who are not candidates for sur-gery.2 SBRT might therefore become a common treatment for these patients. Phase 2 local control outcomes with SBRT in patients previously treated with incomplete transarterial chemoembolization are also promising.10 Importantly, tumor vascular thrombus appears to be treatable (recanalized) with radiotherapy, presumably restoring vascular function to some degree.1,2

The results of this trial add to the evidence base only for SBRT, and not other radiotherapy modalities such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). Radiotherapy planning and performance, modalities and equipment, and fractionation vary from facility to facility, cautions Hong, and these factors might affect patient outcomes.2 Hong emphasized that although the study by Bujold and colleagues clearly shows that radiation is an effective local modality for treating high-risk HCC, that radiation therapy will ultimately improve survival is not a foregone conclusion.2 “Even if radiation can

ablate a tumor and tumor thrombus, the competing risks of distant disease progression and underlying liver disease remain significant,” reported Hong.2ONA


Bryant Furlow is a medical journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


REFERENCES

1. Bujold A, Massey CA , Kim JJ , et al. Sequential phase I and II trials of stereotactic body radiotherapy for locally advanced hepatocellular carcinoma. J Clin Oncol. 2013;31(13):1631-1639. doi:10.1200/JCO .2012.44.1659.

2. Hong TS. Radiotherapy for hepatocellular carcinoma with tumor vascular thrombus: ready for prime time? J Clin Oncol. 2013;31(13):1619-1620. doi:10.1200/JCO .2012.48.2703.

3. H a NB, Ha NB, Ahmed A, et al. Risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with chronic liver disease: a case-control study. Cancer Causes Control. 2012;23(3):455-462. doi:10.1007/s10552-012-09895-z.

4. What are the risk factors for liver cancer? American Cancer Society Web site. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/livercancer/detailedguide/liver-cancer-risk-factors. Accessed May 14, 2013.

5. Adult primary liver cancer treatment (PDQ). National Cancer Institute Web site. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/adult-primary-liver/HealthProfessional/page1. Accessed May 14, 2013.

6. Klein J, Dawson LA . Hepatocellular carcinoma radiation therapy: review of evidence and future opportunity. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2012;pii:SO360-3016(12)03510-9. doi:10.1016/j.ijrobp.2012.08.043.

7. How is liver cancer staged? American Cancer Society Web site. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/livercancer/detailedguide/liver-cancer-staging. Accessed May 14, 2013.

8. Daniele B, Annunziata M, Barletta E, et al. Cancer of the Liver Italian Program (CLIP) score for staging hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatol Res. 2007;37(suppl2):S206-S209. doi:10.1111/j.1872.034X.2007.00186.x.

9. Child-Turcotte-Pugh (CTP) calculator. United States Departments of Veterans Affairs Web site. http://www.hepatitis.va.gov/provider/tools/child-pugh-calculator.asp. Accessed May 14, 2013.

10. Kang JK, Kim MS, Cho CK, et al. Stereotactic body radiation therapy for inoperable hepatocellular carcinoma as a local salvage treatment after incomplete transarterial chemoembolization. Cancer. 2012;118(21):5424-5431. doi:10.1002/cncr.27533.

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MicroRNA HCV Therapy Has Big Promise

By Michael Smith, North American Correspondent, MedPage Today

Published: March 27, 2013

Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner

Action Points

  • A nonpharmaceutical approach to hepatitis C (HCV) treatment demonstrated promising efficacy and safety results in an early stage trial.
  • Point out that the antisense oligonucleotide miravirsen, which binds miR-122, had no dose-limiting adverse events and did not appear to give rise to resistance.

A nonpharmaceutical approach to hepatitis C (HCV) treatment demonstrated promising efficacy and safety results in an early stage trial, researchers reported.

Blocking the liver-expressed microRNA-122 (miR-122) led to dose-dependent and persistent declines in HCV, according to Harry Janssen, MD, PhD, of the University Health Network in Toronto, and colleagues.

The antisense oligonucleotide miravirsen, which binds miR-122, had no dose-limiting adverse events and did not appear to give rise to resistance, Janssen and colleagues reported online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers noted that miR-122 binds to two sites in the HCV genome – an attachment that is essential for the "stability and propagation" of the virus. Miravirsen, in turn, binds to miR-122, making it unavailable to HCV.

Their findings – from a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, Phase IIa study – suggest that miravirsen might play a role in treating chronic HCV infection, the researchers concluded.

But exactly what that role is will depend on further study, experts outside the industry-supported study commented.

The results so far are "very exciting," according to Stacey Rizza, MD of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"One of the challenges in hepatitis C is always resistance," she told MedPage Today. "These microRNA (inhibitors) are targeting very conserved parts of the hepatitis virus so the chance of resistance is much lower."

But, she cautioned, "It's still very early, we don't know if it's actually going to lead to the outcomes we need it to lead to -- i.e. cure – and we're not sure yet long-term whether this is going to be safe."

Indeed, the long-term safety of the substance may be important, since one of the functions of miR-122 is to act as a tumor suppressor, commented Judy Lieberman, MD, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, and Peter Sarnow, PhD, of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

But, they concluded in an accompanying editorial in the journal, "pending satisfactory answers to the questions regarding safety," miravirsen or other microRNAs might be useful in a cocktail of anti-HCV agents that would have various targets.

Miravirsen, Janssen and colleagues reported, suppressed HCV in animal studies and showed no adverse events in healthy volunteers. To advance the clinical trials, they enrolled 36 treatment-naïve patients with genotype 1 HCV and randomly assigned them to placebo or one of three doses of miravirsen -- 3, 5, or 7 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

Patients got five subcutaneous injections over a 29-day period and were followed for 18 weeks.

Miravirsen, they reported, led to dose-dependent reduction in HCV RNA, Specifically, the average maximum drop in HCV RNA (in log10 IU per milliliter) was:

  • 1.2 for patients receiving 3 milligrams per kilogram, a change that was significant (P=0.01).
  • 2.9 for those getting 5 milligrams per kilogram ( P=0.003).
  • 3.0 for patients given 7 milligrams per kilogram, (P=0.002).
  • 0.4 in the placebo group.

During the 14 weeks of follow-up after the end of treatment, HCV was not detected at some points in one patient in the 5-milligram group and in four patients in the 7-milligram group.

Several of those patients had viral rebound, suggesting that 4 weeks of miravirsen is not enough to lead to sustained virological responses, Janssen and colleagues reported.

Only two of the 112 adverse events reported miravirsen patients were above grade 2, the researchers reported, but none was dose limiting.

As well, the researchers reported that they found no mutations in the miR-122 binding sites of the HCV genome that would lead to resistance.

Rizza told MedPage Today that therapy for HCV is advancing rapidly, to the point where investigational all-oral regimens are possible that avoid the standard but difficult-to-take pegylated interferon and ribavirin.

But even those novel regimens may not be useful in all patients, so a therapy like miravirsen is likely to find a role, she said.

The study was supported by Santaris Pharma. Janssen reported financial links with the company as well as with Roche, Merck, Abbott, Anadys, Medtronic, Gilead, and Tibotec. Several authors are employees of Santaris.

Lieberman reported financial links with Alnylam. Sarnow did not report any potential conflicts.

Primary source: New England Journal of Medicine
Source reference:
Janssen HLA, et al "Treatment of HCV infection by targeting microRNA" N Engl J Med 2013; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1209026.

Additional source: New England Journal of Medicine
Source reference:
udy Lieberman,Peter Sarnow "Micromanaging hepatitis C virus" N Engl J Med 2013; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe1301348.

Source

Provided by Healio

May 30, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. — Acute alcoholic hepatitis can be identified via a noninvasive test measuring concentrations of trimethylamine in exhaled breath, according to data presented at Digestive Disease Week.

In a prospective, single-center study, researchers evaluated volatile breath compounds in 22 patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis (AH), 25 with acute nonalcoholic hepatitis, 30 with chronic alcoholic liver disease and 42 with chronic nonalcoholic liver disease, along with 10 healthy alcoholic and 32 healthy nonalcoholic controls. Samples were analyzed via selected-ion flow-tube mass spectrometry.

“AH is a common disease that happens in young individuals, typically after binge drinking,” researcher Ibrahim A. Hanouneh, MD, chief fellow in the gastroenterology and hepatology department of the Digestive Disease Institute at Cleveland Clinic, told Healio.com. “It’s a life-threatening disease; mortality can reach 40% to 60% in severe cases. The gold standard for the diagnosis of AH right now is liver biopsy, which can be challenging in these individuals. … We tried to come up with a noninvasive test that hopefully can replace liver biopsy.”

Of 14 evaluated compounds, seven were more prominent among patients with liver disease than controls, including acetaldehyde (P=.004), acetone (P<.001), ammonia (P<.001), ethanol (P<.001), pentane (P=.02), trimethylamine (TMA; P<.001) and 2-propanol (P<.001). TMA in particular was significantly elevated among patients with AH compared with controls and participants with other liver diseases (P<.001).

ROC analysis indicated a specificity of 94% and sensitivity of 98% for AH diagnosis with a TMA cutoff value of 31 ppb (AUC=0.99; 95% CI, 0.977-1). Researchers also observed a correlation between TMA concentration and MELD score among patients with AH (0.53; 95% CI, 0.04-1).

“If this is validated in larger trials, we can hopefully rely on breath test analysis to diagnose AH without performing invasive tests such as liver biopsy,” Hanouneh said. “When [physicians] face difficulty in making the diagnosis of AH; particularly when the patient cannot provide accurate history of alcohol intake … the breath test would be the way to go.”

Hanouneh said additional patients have been recruited for the study, and results remain unchanged. He hopes to observe a correlation between liver disease severity and the three compounds during future analysis.

Disclosure: The researchers report numerous financial disclosures.

For more information:

Hanouneh IA. Su1282: A Novel Noninvasive Breath Test in Patients with Acute Alcoholic Hepatitis. Presented at: Digestive Disease Week 2013; May 18-21, Orlando, Fla.

Source

Public release date: 30-May-2013

Contact: James Sliwa
jsliwa@asmusa.org
202-942-9297
American Society for Microbiology

Treatments against hepatitis C virus have only been partially successful. A major problem is that antivirals generate drug resistance. Now Seong-Wook Lee of Dankook University, Yongin, Republic of Korea and his collaborators have developed agents that bind to the business end of a critical protein, disabling it so successfully that no resistance has arisen. The research is published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Virology.

The target protein for the new agents is the NS5B replicase protein, which is the central catalytic enzyme in HCV replication. The researchers developed "RNA aptamers" which bind tightly to the part of that protein that performs the catalysis, disabling the replicase. Aptamers are short nucleic acids or peptides that provide the same level of recognition and binding ability that is common to antibodies.

The aptamers inhibited HCV replication without generating escape mutants, says Lee. Moreover, the aptamers inhibited diverse genotypes of HCV, neither causing toxicity nor inducing innate immunity, he says. Lee notes that in the study, therapeutic quantities of ligand-conjugated aptamer penetrated the liver tissue in the mice, raising the likelihood that therapeutically effective quantities could ultimately be achieved in HCV patients.

Roughly 170 million people worldwide are infected with HCV, says Lee, and it is the major cause of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. There is as yet "no efficient and specific single regimen against HCV," says Lee. Current treatments are associated with many side effects, partly because rapid generation of drug-resistant virus has forced clinicians to use combinations of several drugs, resulting in greater numbers of side effects in patients than if a single agent could be used. And even with the drug combinations only some patients can generate a sustained antiviral response.

###

A copy of the article can be found online at http://bit.ly/asmtip0513c.

(C.H. Lee, Y.J. Lee, S.-W. Lee et al. Inhibition of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication by specific RNA aptamers against HCV NS5B RNA replicase. J. Virol. June 2013 87:7064-7074; published ahead of print 17 April 2013 ,doi:10.1128/JVI.00405-13)

The Journal of Virology is a publication of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM). The ASM is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. Its mission is to advance the microbiological sciences as a vehicle for understanding life processes and to apply and communicate this knowledge for the improvement of health and environmental and economic well-being worldwide.

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Future Hepatitis C Blockbusters May Spawn Compulsory Generics

By Bloomberg on 7:53 pm May 30, 2013.
Category Health
Tags: hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, pharmaceutical industry companies firms drug makers

Hepatitis C drugs like Gilead Sciences Inc.’s sofosbuvir, which analysts forecast will become the company’s top-seller, may spawn compulsory generics in countries that can’t afford them, according to a report backed by billionaire Richard Branson.

While health officials are negotiating with drugmakers including Gilead over the price of new medicines for the deadly liver virus, developing nations should issue so-called compulsory licenses for the therapies if price reductions aren’t sufficient, according to the report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, of which Branson and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker are members.

Under a World Trade Organization agreement known as trade- related aspects of intellectual property rights, or TRIPS, member countries can give licenses to generic-drug makers to make low-cost copies of treatments protected by patents that are needed to address a public health emergency.

“If the prices were to be unaffordable once more in history, it would be one more scandal around inequity of access to health care,” Michel Kazatchkine, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said at a briefing in Geneva Thursday.

“There’s no reason why a country like Ukraine wouldn’t go for this and declare a public emergency.” Liver Damage About 170 million people are infected with hepatitis C, which is transmitted commonly among drug users who share contaminated needles, and can cause liver damage and cancer.

Of 16 million people estimated to inject drugs globally, about 10 million have hepatitis C, according to Thursday’s report, which didn’t specifically name sofosbuvir.

Spokeswomen for Gilead didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail requesting comment sent outside regular business hours.

Gilead applied for U.S. regulatory approval of sofosbuvir last month, and the drug may cost as much as $100,000 per patient, according to Mark Schoenebaum, an analyst at ISI Group in New York. The Foster City, California-based company gained the drug with its $11.1 billion acquisition of Pharmasset Inc. last year.

The pill may earn Gilead almost $4 billion in 2015 and $6.3 billion the following year, according to the average analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Johnson & Johnson, AbbVie Inc., Merck & Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. are among other companies developing new hepatitis C treatments.

Bloomberg

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Idenix

May 30, 2013

 

Phase II HELIX-1 Trial is First HCV Clinical Study to Commence Through Collaboration Agreement With Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 30, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:IDIX), a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery and development of drugs for the treatment of human viral diseases, today announced the initiation of the phase II HELIX-1 clinical trial evaluating an all-oral, direct-acting antiviral (DAA) HCV combination regimen of samatasvir (IDX719), Idenix's once-daily pan-genotypic NS5A inhibitor, and simeprevir (TMC435), a once-daily protease inhibitor jointly developed by Janssen R&D Ireland and Medivir AB.

The HELIX-1 trial is a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, parallel group study evaluating the safety and tolerability of samatasvir and simeprevir in addition to antiviral activity endpoints, with a target enrollment of 90 treatment-naïve, non-cirrhotic, genotype 1b or 4 HCV-infected patients. Patients will be randomized equally across three treatment arms, receiving either 50, 100, or 150 mg samatasvir once-daily for 12 weeks in combination with simeprevir plus ribavirin. The HELIX-1 trial is the first study in HCV-infected patients to commence under a non-exclusive collaboration agreement signed with Janssen in January 2013. A second trial (HELIX-2) of samatasvir, simeprevir and TMC647055, a once-daily non-nucleoside polymerase inhibitor boosted with low-dose ritonavir being developed by Janssen, is expected to initiate in the second half of 2013.

"We are pleased with the progress of our samatasvir program and its advancement into phase II following successful completion of a drug-drug interaction study with simeprevir earlier this year," said Ron Renaud, Idenix's President and Chief Executive Officer. "Our goal is to initiate multiple two- and three-DAA trials of samatasvir through the Janssen collaboration. Additionally, we look forward to advancing our own internal combination of samatasvir with our lead uridine nucleotide analog by the end of this year."

ABOUT THE IDENIX/JANSSEN COLLABORATION

In January 2013, Idenix entered into a non-exclusive collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for the clinical development of all-oral direct-acting antiviral (DAA) HCV combination therapies. The collaboration will evaluate combinations including samatasvir, simeprevir, and TMC647055. In addition to the HELIX-1 phase II trial, the companies also plan to initiate HELIX-2 which will evaluate a three-DAA combination of samatasvir, simeprevir and TMC647055/r, with and without ribavirin. The clinical trials will be conducted by Idenix. Both Idenix and Janssen retain all rights to their respective compounds under the agreement.

ABOUT SAMATASVIR (IDX719)

Samatasvir is an NS5A inhibitor with low picomolar, pan-genotypic antiviral activity in vitro. To date, samatasvir has been safe and well-tolerated after single and multiple doses of up to 150 mg in healthy volunteers for up to 14 days duration and up to 100 mg in HCV-infected patients up to 3 days duration. There have been no treatment-emergent serious adverse events reported in the program. Samatasvir has demonstrated potent pan-genotypic antiviral activity in HCV-infected patients with mean maximal viral load reductions up to approximately 4.0 log10 IU/mL across HCV genotypes 1-4 in a proof-of-concept, three-day monotherapy study.

ABOUT SIMEPREVIR (TMC435)

Simeprevir is a once-daily potent investigational hepatitis C protease inhibitor in late phase III clinical development being jointly developed by Janssen R&D Ireland and Medivir AB to treat chronic hepatitis C virus infections. Simeprevir is being investigated in combination with PegIFN/RBV in phase III trials and is also being evaluated with direct-acting antiviral (DAA) agents in three other phase II interferon-free combinations both with and without ribavirin (RBV). For further details please visit http://www.medivir.com.

ABOUT HEPATITIS C

Hepatitis C virus is a common blood-borne pathogen infecting three to four million people worldwide annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with HCV, representing a nearly 5-fold greater prevalence than human immunodeficiency virus.

ABOUT IDENIX

Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Inc., headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a biopharmaceutical Company engaged in the discovery and development of drugs for the treatment of human viral diseases. Idenix's current focus is on the treatment of patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. For further information about Idenix, please refer to www.idenix.com.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This press release contains "forward-looking statements" for purposes of the safe harbor provisions of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including but not limited to the statements regarding the Company's future business and financial performance. For this purpose, any statements contained herein that are not statements of historical fact may be deemed forward-looking statements. Without limiting the foregoing, the words "expect," "plans," "anticipates," "intends," "will," and similar expressions are also intended to identify forward-looking statements, as are expressed or implied statements with respect to the Company's potential pipeline candidates, including any expressed or implied statements regarding the efficacy and safety of IDX719 or any other drug candidate; the successful development of novel combinations of direct-acting antivirals for the treatment of HCV; the likelihood and success of any future clinical trials involving IDX719 or our other drug candidates; and expectations with respect to funding of operations and future cash balances. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of risks and uncertainties, including but not limited to the following: there can be no guarantees that the Company will advance any clinical product candidate or other component of its potential pipeline to the clinic, to the regulatory process or to commercialization; management's expectations could be affected by unexpected regulatory actions or delays; uncertainties relating to, or unsuccessful results of, clinical trials, including additional data relating to the ongoing clinical trials evaluating its product candidates; the Company's ability to obtain additional funding required to conduct its research, development and commercialization activities; changes in the Company's business plan or objectives; the ability of the Company to attract and retain qualified personnel; competition in general; and the Company's ability to obtain, maintain and enforce patent and other intellectual property protection for its product candidates and its discoveries. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such statements. These and other risks which may impact management's expectations are described in greater detail under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2013 as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and in any subsequent periodic or current report that the Company files with the SEC.

All forward-looking statements reflect the Company's estimates only as of the date of this release (unless another date is indicated) and should not be relied upon as reflecting the Company's views, expectations or beliefs at any date subsequent to the date of this release. While Idenix may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, it specifically disclaims any obligation to do so, even if the Company's estimates change.

Source: Idenix Pharmaceuticals

News Provided by Acquire Media

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Provided by Healio

May 29, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. — Liver transplant recipients with IBD are more likely to experience worsening disease post-transplant with shorter disease duration, according to data presented at Digestive Disease Week.

Researchers performed a retrospective chart analysis of 924 patients who underwent liver transplantation (LT) between 1998 and 2012. The cohort included 45 patients with post-transplant IBD, including 38 with previous IBD and seven who developed de novo IBD after the procedure. IBD severity was determined according to symptoms, complications, hospitalizations because of flares and use of steroids or immunosuppressive medications.

Among patients with prior IBD, 39% experienced a worsening of their condition after the procedure, 11% improved and the remaining 50% had inactive IBD. Twenty-two participants, including all seven who developed post-transplant IBD, had active disease after LT.

A shorter duration of IBD before transplantation was significantly associated with a risk for worsening disease post-transplant (P=3.261E-07), particularly among those with prior IBD for 8 years or fewer. No association was observed between the risk for increased IBD severity and gender (P=.7763) ethnicity (P=.5813), smoking (P=.6614) or cytomegalovirus infection (P=.2825). The researchers said primary sclerosing cholangitis existed in the majority of patients with active post-LT IBD, but could not determine its status as a risk factor for worsening IBD because it was the major indication for LT in the study population.

“We found that 8 years or less of IBD duration at time of liver transplant might be a potential risk factor,” researcher Maiyen Tran Hawkins, DO, a fellow at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, told Healio.com. “In knowing that potential risk factor, more aggressive medical management might be needed for those patients who have a shorter duration of IBD prior to the liver transplant, to potentially prevent or reduce their risk of worsening disease.”

Disclosure: Researchers Kirti Shetty, MD,and Aline Charabaty, MD, reported numerous financial disclosures.

For more information:

Hawkins MT. Mo1280: Inflammatory Bowel Disease Activity Following Liver Transplantation: Potential Risk Factors for De Novo Disease and for Increase in Disease Severity. Presented at: Digestive Disease Week 2013; May 18-21, Orlando, Fla.

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Congress Offers Free Hepatitis Tests

Hank2

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who once battled and overcame hepatitis C, is now a champion for early hepatitis testing. Members of the House offered free screenings for hepatitis B and hepatitis C on May 23 in honor of National Hepatitis Awareness Month. (Hank Johnson)

Legislators publicize condition during National Hepatitis Awareness Month

By Ron Dory, Epoch Times | May 28, 2013

Last Updated: May 28, 2013 8:31 pm

WASHINGTON—Members of the House offered free screenings for hepatitis B and hepatitis C on May 23 in honor of National Hepatitis Awareness Month. Many people who are infected do not know they have the illness.

“For years, I, too, was unaware. But I was tested, sought treatment, and I am very fortunate to have beaten this disease. I am living proof that testing saves lives,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who has recovered from hepatitis C. Rep. Johnson is a champion of hepatitis C awareness campaigns and an advocate of testing.

The illness often has no symptoms, but if it is diagnosed early, medications can save lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Untreated hepatitis can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, and cancer. Of the more than 5.3 million people in the U.S. with hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C, 65 to 75 percent are not aware they are infected, according to Johnson’s constituent newsletter.

All baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965, should be tested, according to the CDC. All Americans of Asian heritage should also be tested, according to the CDC.

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, D.C., and the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus presented the testing event, one of many other events raising awareness of the disease this month.

Congressmen Johnson, Bill Cassidy, Charlie Dent and Mike Honda, along with Ron Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health & Human Services and John Ward, Director of the Division of Hepatitis at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attended.

House staffers, including security guards, took the tests.

Volunteers and supporters of the Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, D.C., (HBI-DC) gathered for its third annual gala fundraiser on May 19 at China Garden restaurant in Rossyln. Community partners, corporate and individual donors, and doctors and nurses who provide free screening and vaccinations recognized HBI-DC’s accomplishments.

Half of all Americans with hepatitis B are Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, according to the CDC. Approximately one in 12 AAPIs have chronic hepatitis B.

Hepatitis is defined as an inflammation of the liver, but the word also refers to strains of viruses that affect the liver, including liver cancer, according to the CDC. Being blood borne, hepatitis B can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child at birth.

When Dr. Mark Li, physician and president of the Association of Chinese American Physicians Mid-Atlantic Chapter first began to advocate for hepatitis B screening, the disease was little known in the Asian community, according to Li, and hepatitis B and C advocates did not work together. He has worked to change that, and made progress.

“I was invited by the American Liver Foundation to do an event in Congress in 2009,” said Li.

In addition to advocating, Li has conducted research on hepatitis B. His Maryland hepatitis B project connected Asian-American doctors, and the results were published in a journal for the National Medical Association in 2007. HBI-DC presented Li with an award to recognize his pro bono work screening, educating, and vaccinating people for hepatitis B .

In D.C., funding is limited for hepatitis B testing programs, according Yujiang Jia, chief epidemiologist with the Washington D.C., Department of Health HIV/AIDS Administration. However, the city offers vaccinations for hepatitis free of charge through the Department of Health Immunization Program.

Pharmaceutical drug maker AbbVie announced early this month that its hepatitis C virus infection treatment has been designated as a breakthrough therapy by the Food and Drug administration.

The breakthrough therapy designation is intended to expedite the development and review of drugs for life-threatening conditions. The all-oral 12-week treatment is in phase three testing in which the drug is administered to people who are closely monitored. It’s the last step before a drug becomes available to the public.

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Unlike breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer, cases of liver cancer are rising.

By: Helen BranswellThe Canadian Press, Published on Wed May 29 2013

Ground is being gained on many fronts in the war against cancer, but one of the deadliest — liver cancer — is still on the rise, the Canadian Cancer Society said Wednesday.

About half of liver cancer cases in Canada are probably preventable, the research and advocacy organization said as it released its annual estimates of the toll cancers will exact in Canada in 2013.

Overall, the society estimates 187,600 people will learn they have a new cancer this year (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers) and 75,500 Canadians will die from some form of the disease.

The big four remain breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer, but rates of these diseases are either stable or declining, says Prithwish De, a cancer epidemiologist with the cancer society.

But the same is not true for liver cancer, which currently claims the lives of four out of five people diagnosed with it. Since 1970, the incidence of liver cancer has tripled in Canadian men and doubled in women.

Primary liver cancer — as opposed to cancer that spreads from another site to the liver — is still rare. The society estimates 2,000 people will be diagnosed with it in 2013 and 1,000 people will succumb to the disease. Worldwide, liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths, after lung and stomach cancer.

The cancer is so deadly because most cases are not found until the disease has progressed beyond the point of cure. When liver cancer is found early it generally responds well to treatment, says Dr. Sean Cleary, a liver surgical oncologist at Toronto’s University Health Network.

“One of the problems with this disease is that it does not develop symptoms or patients aren’t aware that they have the problem until the disease is very advanced, at a very large and untreatable stage,” he said.

Science has made little progress improving the survival chances of people with liver cancer. Over the past 20 years, the survival rate has risen by only between two and three per cent, De says.

But the toll the disease takes could be dramatically lowered if people at high risk of developing the liver cancer took some proactive steps, experts say.

Excess alcohol consumption, obesity and diabetes are known to be risk factors for developing liver cancer. Cutting back on alcohol and taking steps to maintain a healthy weight should lower one’s liver cancer risk, they suggest.

Another way to combat the disease is by addressing two related conditions that can be precursors to liver cancer — hepatitis B and C, which are viral infections of the liver. There is currently a vaccine against hepatitis B, but none for hepatitis C.

People who are at high risk of having one or the other infection should consider talking with their doctors about being tested for hepatitis. Treatment can often clear the infections, the experts say.

“Many individuals who are infected with either acute or chronic hepatitis infections may not be aware that they’re infected. And we’re trying to let Canadians know that there is a way to get tested and find out if you are infected by either hepatitis B or C,” says De.

Last year the U.S. Centers for Disease Control urged all baby boomers to have a one-time test for hepatitis C because of the liver cancer risk. The Canadian Liver Foundation later echoed that advice.

But the Public Health Agency of Canada is studying whether it makes sense to issue a similar recommendation in Canada, where the rate of hepatitis C is lower than in the U.S. While it deliberates, the cancer society is content to wait for evidence-based advice.

“Because we’re lacking that evidence in Canada it’s kind of premature to say whether (across-the-board) screening would be beneficial to that age group,” De says.

“And so, from the Canadian Cancer Society’s perspective, we’d like to wait until there’s a good solid base of evidence before we say anything about screening in specific age cohorts.”

Instead, they recommend a discussion about screening for people who had a blood transfusion before 1990, who use or used intravenous drugs or who moved to Canada from parts of the world where hepatitis B and C are common — Asia and sub-Saharan Africa for hepatitis B, Japan and southern Europe for hepatitis C, Cleary says.

Others at risk are people who’ve had high-risk sexual contacts and received tattoos in non-reputable tattoo parlours, he said.

“Individuals who have those risk factors are definitely candidates for speaking to their doctors about finding out whether testing for hepatitis B or C and whether any other types of counselling would be beneficial for them for reducing their risk of liver cancer,” De says.

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Rapid Progress and Effective Cures Usher New Era for Hepatitis C

SLM-logo

Released:5/29/2013 4:55 PM EDT
Source Newsroom:Saint Louis University Medical Center

Adrian Di Bisceglie, M.D., chair of internal medicine and co-director of the Liver Center at Saint Louis University, urges baby boomers to learn about the risk factors for hepatitis C and talk with their physicians about screening for the virus.

Newswise — In 1989, researchers first identified the hepatitis C virus, a health threat that had been worrying doctors as they noticed patients with unexplained liver damage occurring after receiving blood transfusions. The discovery of the potentially debilitating and deadly virus sparked several decades of productive research. Researchers made unusually rapid progress, in medical research terms, and developed therapies that had success in eliminating the virus, at least in some patients. Then, in 2011, two new drugs were brought to market that changed the landscape in a dramatic way, offering a cure for many more who suffer from a chronic form of the illness.

Currently, we estimate that 4 million people in the U.S. are infected with the virus, and at least 10,000 people in this country will die from its complications each year. Symptoms of hepatitis C can be quite variable and often only develop at the most advanced stages of liver disease, years after the virus was contracted. For this reason, it is believed that roughly 60 percent of those who have the virus are unaware of it. Patients who have a chronic infection can develop inflammation of the liver, leading to fibrosis and cirrhosis, as well as other complications that may result in liver cancer and death.

While hepatitis C is sometimes compared to HIV, and, indeed both are blood-borne, the viruses behave differently. For example, hepatitis C is not frequently spread through sexual contact. It is more likely to be transmitted from a needle stick, blood transfusion or organ transplant received before 1992, recreational drug use, or from mother to infant.

(In fact, reducing hepatitis C transmission by blood donation has been a success story of its own. In the mid-1960’s, approximately one in 10 transfusions was associated with hepatitis, initially referred to as non-A, non-B hepatitis, but now known as hepatitis C. Now, thanks to an all-volunteer blood donor system, as well as questionnaires that weed out donations from those with high risk behavior, and the routine testing of donated blood for various biomarkers of hepatitis, the risk is virtually nonexistent at one in five million.)

Today, we see hepatitis C patients from all walks of life. We see captains of industry who may have contracted the virus in their youth and healthcare workers who received accidental needle sticks on the job or even young people who acquired it from their mothers at birth. Because they may only begin to show symptoms decades later, it’s often impossible to pinpoint the exact way the virus was contracted.

However, there is an inexpensive and accurate blood test for hepatitis C. Liver disease specialists advocate that those at risk ask their doctor to be tested. In particular, the CDC now recommends that all baby boomers -- those born between 1945 and 1965 -- be screened. Doctors also urge those with risk factors such as a blood transfusion prior to 1992, a history of injection drug use and abnormal liver enzymes counts be tested.

With parallel clinical trials successfully concluding in recent years, two effective new drugs, Merck’s boceprevir and Vertex’s telaprevir, were FDA approved in 2011 to treat the virus. Added to the existing treatment regimen of peginterferon and ribavirin, these new medicines can cure nearly 80 percent of those with the disease.

Though the new treatments still require the use of peginterferon, which frequently causes taxing side effects, we’ve turned a corner. The new drugs lower the average treatment time from 1 year to 6 months. More antiviral drugs against hepatitis C are in the pipeline, and their use may eventually eliminate the need for interferon altogether.

But, right now, we can tell patients with hepatitis C that treatment time is expected to be much less than a year, is far more likely to cure them, and is likely to add years to their lives. The opportunity to halt progressive liver damage is a chance to save those with the virus from debilitating fatigue, cancer and death.

Physicians now can recommend testing to patients with the knowledge that we have effective medicines to treat the virus if we find it. These new medicines are revolutionizing the care of those with hepatitis C. It’s critical that those at risk be screened so the illness can be treated.

Adrian Di Bisceglie, M.D. is chair of the department of internal medicine and co-director of the Liver Center at Saint Louis University. He also served as Liver Diseases Section Chief at the National Institutes of Health where he supervised research in viral hepatitis and was among the first to use interferon when the illness simply was known as non-A, non-B hepatitis. Throughout the search for a cure for hepatitis C, Di Bisceglie led numerous research studies and recently co-authored a New England Journal of Medicine paper on the successful telaprevir clinical trial.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.

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War on drugs 'driving hepatitis C pandemic'

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Hepatitis C virus can lead to fatal liver disease

29 May 2013 Last updated at 19:44 ET

The global war on drugs is fuelling a hepatitis C pandemic causing millions of needless infections, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has warned.

Repressive drug law enforcement is driving high rates of infection among injecting drug users, it said.

Resources need to be redirected into treatment and prevention.

The Commission estimated that of 16 million people worldwide who inject drugs, 10 million are living with hepatitis C.

This puts them at risk of fatal and debilitating liver disease.

The Global Commission called on governments to decriminalise drug use and provide schemes, such as those which give access to sterile needles, to halt the spread of the disease.

"The war on drugs is a war on common sense.”

End Quote Ruth Dreifuss Global Commission on Drug Policy

The group, which includes seven former presidents, ex-UN chief Kofi Annan and other world leaders, has previously linked the "failed" war on drugs with the spread of HIV.

In its latest report it says in some countries with the harshest drug policies more than 90% of people who inject drugs are living with hepatitis C.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia have seen the fastest spread of infection and the highest number of infections has been reported in China, the Russian Federation and the USA.

Strongly enforced policies criminalising drug use force users away from public health services and locking up vast numbers of injecting users perpetuates the spread of the infection, the Commission warned in the latest report.

Hidden epidemic

Hepatitis C is highly infectious and around a quarter of those with chronic infection will develop fatal liver disease.

But the disease can go undetected for several years with no or few symptoms and many people are completely unaware they are infected.

Governments "must immediately redirect resources away from the 'war on drugs' and into public health approaches that maximise hepatitis C prevention and care", the report recommended.

Hepatitis C

  • Hepatitis C is most commonly spread through blood-to-blood contact
  • It is three times more prevalent than HIV among injecting drug users
  • Initially it can cause no or very mild symptoms such as fever, nausea and fatigue
  • In 80% of those infected the infection becomes chronic and the virus remains in the body long-term
  • A quarter of those with chronic infection will develop potentially fatal liver disease
  • Many people do not know they are infected until they get advanced liver disease

"Hepatitis C has to be one of the most grossly miscalculated diseases by governments on the planet," said commissioner Michel Kazatchkine, who is also the UN secretary-general's special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

"It is a disgrace that barely a handful of countries can actually show significant declines in new infections of hepatitis C among people who inject drugs."

The report highlighted Scotland's national Hepatitis C Action Plan as an example of best practice.

Launched in 2006, the strategy has led to a four-to-six-fold increase in the provision of sterile injecting equipment and an increase in the number of people, mainly in drug services and prisons, being tested for the infection.

The provisions put in place, which also include an eight-fold increase in the number of prisoners receiving treatment for hepatitis C, have led to falling rates of infection.

The Commission also highlights the potential for dramatic savings to countries' health and welfare budgets in the long term from preventing cases of liver disease.

"The war on drugs is a war on common sense," said commissioner Ruth Dreifuss, who is also the former president of Switzerland.

"Repressive drug policies are ineffective, violate basic human rights, generate violence and expose individuals and communities to unnecessary risks.

"The hepatitis C epidemic, totally preventable and curable, is yet another proof that the drug policy status quo has failed us all miserably."

The World Hepatitis Alliance said: "It is incomprehensible that hepatitis C, along with hepatitis B, is so consistently ignored.

"If you compare rates of hepatitis C in drug users in countries with good harm reduction and more enlightened drug policies with those in countries without, it is clear that regarding drug use exclusively as a criminal justice issue is a health disaster. Hepatitis C, its prevention, care and treatment must be addressed and must be addressed as the health issue it is."

A UK government spokesperson said: "This government is committed to breaking the vicious cycle of addiction and drug usage remains at its lowest level since records began.

"The best protection from drugs is not to take them in the first place, but we must ensure good healthcare is available for those who want to treat their addiction - and we are seeing a rise in the numbers of users exiting treatment programmes free of drugs."

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Dual IBD, metabolic syndrome diagnoses linked to NAFLD

Provided by Healio

May 28, 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. — A combination of inflammatory bowel disease and metabolic syndrome increased the risk for developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, according to data presented at Digestive Disease Week.

Using data collected from the University of Pennsylvania electronic health care record, researchers performed a retrospective chart review of 10,863 patients with NAFLD seen between 1997 and 2011. IBD was present in 297 cases, with a dual diagnosis of IBD and NAFLD in 37 patients, including 11 with ulcerative colitis and 26 with Crohn’s disease.

Patients with any three of the following characteristics were considered to have metabolic syndrome (MetS): BMI greater than 30 kg/m2, diabetes/insulin resistance, hypertension or hyperlipidemia. Liver biopsy or BARD fibrosis score was used to determine NAFLD severity, while IBD severity was indicated via Montreal classification and physician global assessment.

“Intestinal inflammation and bacterial translocation have been implicated in the pathogenesis of NAFLD,” the researchers wrote. “It is unknown, however, whether the combination of obesity and chronic intestinal inflammation in IBD patients increases NAFLD risk or severity.”

Among the 37 patients with dual IBD/NAFLD diagnoses, the mean BMI was 31 kg/m2 . At NAFLD diagnosis, the mean C-reactive protein (CRP) was 30.7, 35% of participants had MetS, and 62.2% had severe IBD. Eighty-one percent of this subset had BARD scores between 2 and 4. Patients with MetS had significantly greater estimated NAFLD severity compared with those without MetS (P=.048). Bilirubin levels were significantly higher among MetS patients (0.9 compared with 0.5; P=.004), but alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, CRP and erythrocyte sedimentation rate levels did not differ according to MetS presence.

“Patients with more severe IBD tend to have a higher risk of progression to NAFLD,” researcher Arpan Patel, MD, a resident at the University of Pennsylvania, told Healio.com. “Patients who carry a dual diagnosis [of metabolic syndrome] have higher BARD scores, which correlate to worsening NAFLD severity. If you have a patient with IBD, and they have metabolic syndrome, you should be worried about NAFLD in that patient.”

Disclosure: Researcher Gary R. Lichtenstein, MD, reported numerous financial disclosures.

For more information:

Carr RM. Mo1261: Metabolic Syndrome and IBD Severity May Increase Risk of NAFLD. Presented at: Digestive Disease Week 2013; May 18-21, Orlando, Fla.

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ACH

May 30, 2013

— Advancement of ACH-3422 Complements Achillion's Portfolio of 2nd Generation Protease and NS5A Inhibitors Providing the Opportunity to Optimize Treatment Duration and Outcomes for All HCV Patients —

— Conference Call and Webcast to be Hosted Today at 12:00pm EDT —

NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 30, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq:ACHN) today announced the nomination of the preclinical compound, ACH-3422, a novel small molecule nucleotide prodrug of a uridine analog designed to inhibit HCV NS5B polymerase. This compound will be advanced as a development candidate for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C (HCV) viral infection. Achillion plans to complete regulatory submissions during the first quarter of 2014, with first-in-human studies anticipated in the first half of 2014, followed by combination development in the second half of 2014.

"Our research and discovery team has always maintained the highest standards for developing proprietary best-in-class compounds, and this has led to the nomination of ACH-3422, which we are now advancing toward the clinic," commented Milind Deshpande, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer. "The addition of ACH-3422 gives Achillion a portfolio of assets that also includes a 2nd generation protease inhibitor, sovaprevir, and a 2nd generation NS5A inhibitor, ACH-3102, which together provide Achillion the opportunity to potentially optimize treatment outcomes and duration of therapy across all HCV patients."

Dr. Deshpande further commented, "Along with the nomination of this candidate, we continue our efforts to accelerate the development time-lines for our all-oral, interferon-free combination of sovaprevir and ACH-3102, our protease and NS5A inhibitors, as a regimen for the treatment of HCV. Beginning in the third quarter of 2013, we expect to begin to report interim results from the ongoing -007 clinical trial of these agents for the treatment of HCV genotype 1 treatment-naïve patients."

Preclinical profile of ACH-3422

ACH-3422 is a small-molecule, nucleotide prodrug inhibitor of HCV NS5B polymerase. In vitro, ACH-3422 has demonstrated excellent potency, with activity demonstrated across all genotypes of HCV and an EC50 of approximately 50 to 65 nanomolar against genotype 1 HCV. To date, Achillion has completed 14-day safety studies in animals, where no significant findings were noted at the highest dose tested. ACH-3422 appears to have high oral bioavailability, rapid uptake and conversion of the prodrug into the monophosphate within the liver, and a pharmacokinetic profile supportive of once-daily dosing. Manufacturing and IND-enabling studies have been initiated, with the expectation of submitting an IND to the FDA in the first quarter of 2014.

Conference Call

The Company will host a conference call and simultaneous webcast on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. To participate in the conference call, please dial (877) 266-0482 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (877) 266-0482 end_of_the_skype_highlighting in the U.S. or (631) 291-4567 for international callers. A live audio webcast of the call will be accessible at www.achillion.com, under the News Center section of the website. Please connect to Achillion's website several minutes prior to the start of the broadcast to ensure adequate time for any software download that may be necessary.

A replay of the webcast will be available on www.achillion.com. Alternatively, a replay of the conference call will be available starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time on May 28, 2013, through 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on June 5, 2013 by dialing (855) 859-2056 or (404) 537-3406. The replay passcode is 87685598.

About HCV

The hepatitis C virus is the most common cause of viral hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver. It is currently estimated that more than 170 million people are infected with HCV worldwide including more than 5 million people in the United States, making HCV more than twice as widespread as HIV. Three-fourths of the global HCV patient population is undiagnosed; it is a silent epidemic and a major global health threat. Chronic hepatitis, if left untreated, can lead to permanent liver damage that can result in the development of liver cancer, liver failure or death. Few therapeutic options currently exist for the treatment of HCV infection. The current standard of care is limited by its specificity for certain types of HCV, significant side-effect profile, and injectable route of administration.

For additional information on Achillion's ongoing clinical trial please visit: http://clinicaltrials.gov

About Achillion Pharmaceuticals

Achillion is an innovative pharmaceutical company dedicated to bringing important new treatments to patients with infectious disease. Achillion's discovery, clinical development, and commercial teams have advanced multiple novel product candidates with proven mechanisms of action into studies and toward the market. Achillion is focused on solutions for the most challenging problems in infectious disease including HCV and resistant bacterial infections. For more information on Achillion Pharmaceuticals, please visit www.achillion.com or call 1-203-624-7000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-203-624-7000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that are subject to risks, uncertainties and other important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements, including statements with respect to: the expected potency, bioavailability, pharmacokinetic and other characteristics of development candidate ACH-3422; Achillion's expectations regarding timing for the commencement, completion and reporting of results of its clinical trials of ACH-3422, ACH-3102 in combination with ribavirin and sovaprevir in combination with ACH-3102. We may use words such as "expect," "anticipate," "project," "intend," "plan," "believe," "seek," " estimate," and "may" and similar expressions to identify such forward-looking statements. Among the important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements are risks relating to, among other things Achillion's ability to: successfully advance ACH-3422 into clinical trials; replicate in later clinical trials positive results found in preclinical and earlier stage clinical trials of sovaprevir, ACH-3102, ACH-3422 and its other product candidates; advance the development of its drug candidates under the timelines it anticipates in current and future clinical trials; obtain necessary regulatory approvals; obtain patent protection for its drug candidates and the freedom to operate under third party intellectual property; establish commercial manufacturing arrangements; identify, enter into and maintain collaboration agreements with appropriate third-parties; compete successfully with other companies that are seeking to develop improved therapies for the treatment of HCV; manage expenses; and raise the substantial additional capital needed to achieve its business objectives. These and other risks are described in the reports filed by Achillion with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012 and its subsequent SEC filings.

In addition, any forward-looking statement in this press release represents Achillion's views only as of the date of this press release and should not be relied upon as representing its views as of any subsequent date. Achillion disclaims any duty to update any forward-looking statement, except as required by applicable law.

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