The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has issued a final appraisal determination that recommends wider use of treatments for hepatitis C.

The cost watchdog has recommended wider use of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, which includes Merck Sharp & Dohme’s ’s ViraferonPeg and Rebetol treatment regimen. The guidance recommends combination therapy with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin as a treatment option for adults with chronic hepatitis C who have been treated previously with the drugs in combination, or with peginterferon alfa monotherapy. It also covers patients whose condition either did not respond to treatment, or responded initially to treatment but then relapsed, or who are also infected with HIV.

Shortened courses of combination therapy with peginterferon alfa (2a or 2b) and ribavirin are recommended for patients who have a rapid virological response to treatment at week 4 “that is identified by a highly sensitive test, and who are considered suitable for a shortened course of treatment”, NICE said.

Gillian Leng, NICE deputy chief executive, said the review considered the extensions to the licensed indications for peginterferon alfa, “therefore recommending shorter treatment durations is obviously good news for some people with this condition”. She added that the draft guidance “also widens access to these drugs, giving clinicians and people living with hepatitis C more treatment options.”

Final guidance is expected to be published in September.