Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated Discloses Hep C Drug Deaths
Rash and serious skin reactions are known adverse events associated with INCIVEK combination treatment and were previously included in the warnings and precautions section of the label. Given the severity of the events reported in the post-marketing setting, and the importance of discontinuing INCIVEK combination treatment in the event of one of these reactions, the information has been given greater prominence through a boxed warning.
"The safety of people taking our medicines is our first priority, and we are committed to ensuring that patients and physicians are aware of the label update to help them use INCIVEK properly," said Robert Kauffman, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Vertex. "We will continue to educate physicians to follow the rash management plan developed while INCIVEK was in clinical trials and the information contained in the updated label."
In Phase 3 clinical trials, less than 1 percent of people who received INCIVEK combination treatment experienced a serious skin reaction. These serious skin reactions required hospitalization and all patients recovered. For serious skin reactions, INCIVEK combination treatment must be discontinued immediately, and patients should be promptly referred for urgent medical care.
The INCIVEK label was also updated to include additional information on the time to onset and management of anemia.
INCIVEK® (telaprevir) tablets is an oral medicine that acts directly on the hepatitis C virus protease, an enzyme essential for viral replication. INCIVEK has been prescribed to more than 50,000 patients in the United States. Approximately three out of four U.S. patients who are prescribed a direct-acting antiviral for the treatment of genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C (HCV) receive INCIVEK combination therapy.
In Phase 3 clinical studies, 79 percent of people who had not previously been treated for HCV achieved a viral cure following treatment with INCIVEK combination therapy, compared with 46 percent of those who received pegylated-interferon and ribavirin (P/R) alone. Among people who were treated previously but did not achieve a viral cure, in the Phase 3 studies: 86 percent of relapsers achieved a viral cure with INCIVEK combination therapy compared to 22 percent with P/R alone; 59 percent of partial responders achieved a viral cure compared with 15 percent with P/R alone; and 32 percent of null responders achieved a viral cure compared with 5 percent with P/R alone. In addition, many people are eligible to complete treatment with INCIVEK combination therapy in 24 weeks - half the time required for treatment with P/R alone.
INCIVEK was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2011 and by Health Canada in August 2011 for use in combination with pegylated-interferon and ribavirin for adults with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C with compensated liver disease (some level of damage to the liver but the liver still functions), including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver). INCIVEK is approved for people who are new to treatment, and for people who were treated previously with interferon-based treatment but who did not achieve a sustained viral response, or viral cure (relapsers, partial responders and null responders).
Vertex developed telaprevir in collaboration with Janssen and Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma. Vertex has rights to commercialize telaprevir in North America where it is being marketed under the brand name INCIVEK (in-SEE-veck). Janssen has rights to commercialize telaprevir in Europe, South America, Australia, the Middle East and certain other countries. In September 2011, telaprevir was approved in the European Union and Switzerland. Telaprevir is known as INCIVO® in Europe. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma has rights to commercialize telaprevir in Japan and certain Far East countries. In September 2011, telaprevir was approved in Japan and is known as Telavic®.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
INCIVEK® (telaprevir) is a prescription medicine used with the medicines peginterferon alfa and ribavirin to treat chronic (lasting a long time) hepatitis C genotype 1 infection in adults with stable liver problems, who have not been treated before or who have failed previous treatment. It is not known if INCIVEK is safe and effective in children under 18 years of age.
Important Safety Information
INCIVEK® (telaprevir) should always be used in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. INCIVEK combination treatment may cause serious side effects including skin rash and serious skin reactions, anemia (low red blood cell count) that can be severe, and birth defects or death of an unborn baby.
Skin rashes are common with INCIVEK combination treatment. Sometimes these skin rashes and other skin reactions can become serious, require treatment in a hospital, and may lead to death. Patients should call their healthcare provider right away if they develop any skin changes during treatment with INCIVEK. Their healthcare provider will decide if they need treatment or if they need to stop INCIVEK or any of their other medicines. Patients should not stop taking INCIVEK combination treatment without talking with their healthcare provider first.
Patients' healthcare providers will do blood tests regularly to check for anemia. If anemia is severe, the healthcare providers may tell them to stop taking INCIVEK.
INCIVEK combined with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin may cause birth defects or death of an unborn baby. Therefore, a patient should not take INCIVEK combination treatment if she is pregnant or may become pregnant, or if he is a man with a sexual partner who is pregnant. Females who can become pregnant and females whose male partner takes these medicines must have a negative pregnancy test before starting treatment, every month during treatment, and for 6 months after treatment ends. Patients must use two forms of effective birth control during treatment and for 6 months after all treatment has ended. These two forms of birth control should not contain hormones, as these may not work during treatment with INCIVEK.
INCIVEK and other medicines can affect each other and can also cause side effects that can be serious or life-threatening. There are certain medicines patients cannot take with INCIVEK combination treatment. Patients should tell their healthcare providers about all the medicines they take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements.
The most common side effects of INCIVEK combination treatment include itching, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, anal or rectal problems (including hemorrhoids, discomfort , burning or itching around or near the anus), taste changes and tiredness. There are other possible side effects of INCIVEK, and side effects associated with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin also apply to INCIVEK combination treatment. Patients should tell their healthcare provider about any side effect that bothers them or doesn't go away.
Please see full Prescribing Information including Boxed Warning, and the Medication Guide for INCIVEK available at www.INCIVEK.com.
About Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus, which is spread through direct contact with the blood of infected people and ultimately affects the liver.1 Chronic hepatitis C can lead to serious and life-threatening liver problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.1 Though many people with hepatitis C may not experience symptoms, others may have symptoms such as fatigue, fever, jaundice and abdominal pain.1 Unlike HIV and hepatitis B virus, chronic hepatitis C can be cured.2 If treatment is not successful and a person does not achieve a viral cure, they remain at an increased risk for progressive liver disease.3,4
More than 170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C.5 In the United States, up to 5 million people have chronic hepatitis C and 75 percent of them are unaware of their infection.6,7 Hepatitis C is four times more prevalent in the United States compared to HIV.7 The majority of people with hepatitis C in the United States were born between 1945 and 1965, accounting for 82 percent of people with the disease.8 Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantations in the United States and is reported to contribute to 15,000 deaths annually.9,10 By 2029, total annual medical costs in the United States for people with hepatitis C are expected to more than double, from $30 billion in 2009 to approximately $85 billion.11
Vertex creates new possibilities in medicine. Our team discovers, develops and commercializes innovative therapies so people with serious diseases can lead better lives.
Vertex scientists and our collaborators are working on new medicines to cure or significantly advance the treatment of hepatitis C, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other life-threatening diseases.
Founded more than 20 years ago in Cambridge, Mass., we now have ongoing worldwide research programs and sites in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Today, Vertex has more than 2,000 employees around the world, and for three years in a row, Science magazine has named Vertex one of its Top Employers in the life sciences
Vertex's press releases are available at www.vrtx.com.
Special Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, without limitation, Dr. Kauffman's statements in the third paragraph of this press release. While the company believes the forward-looking statements contained in this press release are accurate, there are a number of factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements. Those risks and uncertainties include the risks listed under Risk Factors in Vertex's annual report and quarterly reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and available through Vertex's website at www.vrtx.com. Vertex disclaims any obligation to update the information contained in this press release as new information becomes available.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis C Fact Sheet: CDC Viral Hepatitis. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/HCV/PDFs/HepCGeneralFactSheet.pdf Updated June 2010. Accessed September 21, 2012.
2 Pearlman BL and Traub N. Sustained Virologic Response to Antiviral Therapy for Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection: A Cure and So Much More. Clin Infect Dis. 2011 Apr;52(7):889-900.
3 Morgan TR, Ghany MG, Kim HY, Snow KK, Lindsay K, Lok AS. Outcome of sustained virological responders and non-responders in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) trial. Hepatology. 2008;50(Suppl 4):357A (Abstract 115).
4 Veldt BJ, Heathcote J, Wedmeyer H. Sustained virologic response and clinical outcomes in patients with chronic hepatitis C and advanced fibrosis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2007; 147: 677-684.
5 Ghany MG, Strader DB, Thomas DL, Seeff, LB. Diagnosis, management and treatment of hepatitis C; An update. Hepatology. 2009;49 (4):1-40.
6 Chak, E, et. al. Hepatitis C Virus Infection In USA: An Estimate of True Prevalence. Liver Intl. 2011;1096 -1098.
7 Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Hepatitis and liver cancer: a national strategy for prevention and control of hepatitis B and C. Colvin HM and Mitchell AE, ed. Available at: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/Hepatitis-and-Liver-Cancer-A-National-Strategy-for-Prevention-and-Control-of-Hepatitis-B-and-C.aspx Updated January 11, 2010. Accessed September 21, 2012.
8 Smith, BD, et al. Hepatitis C Virus Antibody Prevalence, Correlates and Predictors among Persons Born from 1945 through 1965, United States, 1999-2008. AASLD 2011 Annual Meeting.
9 Volk MI, Tocco R, Saini S, Lok, ASF. Public health impact of antiviral therapy for hepatitis C in the United States. Hepatology. 2009;50(6):1750-1755.
10 Ly KN, et al. The Increasing Burden of Mortality From Viral Hepatitis in the United States Between 1999 and 2007. Ann Intern Med. 2012;156:271-278.
11 Pyenson B, Fitch K, and Iwasaki K. Consequences of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV): Costs of a Baby Boomer Epidemic of Liver Disease. Milliman, Inc. May 2009. Available at: http://www.vrtx.com/assets/pdfs/MillimanReport.pdf
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated
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