New data has been published which suggests that Johnson & Johnson and Vertex’ investigational antiviral telaprevir combined with standard hepatitis C treatment, could cure many difficult-to-treat patients.

Data from the PROVE3 trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that telaprevir-based regimens are significantly more effective than the current standard of care in helping patients with chronic genotype 1 HCV who failed previous therapy achieve a sustained virologic response (SVR). Specifically, participants, who had failed prior treatment with pegylated interferon combined with ribavirin, were randomly assigned to one of four treatment regimens, three of which contained telaprevir.

J&J unit Tibotec and Vertex noted that the goal of HCV treatment is to achieve SVR, which means the virus remains undetectable in patients’ blood six months after they have finished treatment. Patients who achieve SVR are considered cured.

The current standard of care for HCV, pegylated interferon combined with ribavirin, may cause side effects and cures only about half of patients with genotype 1 starting therapy for the first time. Michael Manns of the Medical School of Hannover, Germany and investigator in the PROVE 3 study., said that people with HCV who fail to achieve SVR after initial treatment “typically don’t succeed when they are re-treated. This study shows that telaprevir may provide a much-needed new therapeutic option”.

Telaprevir has been touted as a blockbuster in HCV and an estimated 170 million people are infected with the disease.