Scotland’s regulatory body, the Scottish Medicines Consortium, has given the nod to Roche’s Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) for a new use – in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B.

The panel reviewed data showing that patients with the most common form of chronic hepatitis B are more likely to achieve lasting remission if they are treated with Pegasys compared with conventional treatment. According to results from the 800-patient, two-year HBeAG positive trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one third (32%) of patients receiving Pegasys had achieved lasting remission at six months’ follow-up compared to under one fifth of patients receiving GlaxoSmithKline’s antiviral lamivudine (19%).

Hepatitis B is a chronic condition that can lead to liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. It is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide, and approximately one million people die from the disease every year. Pegasys is the only drug of its type to be approved in this indication, and was cleared in Europe earlier this year [[24/01/05e]].