US government health experts are recommending approval for a highly anticipated drug from Merck to treat hepatitis C, based on studies showing it cures patients at a higher rate than drugs used for over 20 years.
A Food and Drug Administration panel of experts voted unanimously, 18 - 0, in favour of Merck's boceprevir tablet as an effective treatment for hepatitis C, which affects an estimated 3.2 million Americans.
The agency is not required to follow the group's recommendation, though it usually does. A final decision is expected in May.
On Thursday the panel will review a similar drug from Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Both of the new drugs block the enzyme that helps the hepatitis virus reproduce.
Panellists said the drug is largely safe, but noted side effects including anaemia and lower blood cell counts. - (SAPA, April 2011)