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Peginterferon-Ribavirin, Failed it twice. Incivek, Failed it. Sovaldi Olysio, failed it. Harvoni, failed it... Transplant Patient Zepatier and Sovaldi...we'll find out!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Host with the most, am i cured already?

This month I completed the Harvoni treatment, which was a heart pounding 24 weeks. The longest single treatment I've been on yet. My longest one, prior to this was Incivek at 17 weeks.
In total I've spent over a year of my life on treatment, and it's been a roller-coaster ride the entire time.
As in every year, they add a new more dangerous yet exciting roller coaster.
Last week I also took my end of treatment blood test, and I should have the results back on Tuesday.

Okay Rick, that means you're cured! Right!?
Well... no.
What. All of that, and it's a no!!?
Yea, sorry viruses have a schedule all their own, and they don't need no man!
No seriously, they can exist on surfaces for like 6 weeks on their own, which is more than some teenagers nowadays.
Anyway, the point is that there are essentially three(sometime four) test markers that determine success or failure.
The first marker is around  a halfway point, or the first zero, whichever comes first.
The second crucial test is the end of treatment test, it determines if the treatment is immediately successful, so that's two zeros needed.

The last marker... WAIIITTT!

Oh yea, there are two markers next, SVR 4 and SVR 12. SVR 4 is done four weeks post treatment it is done to make sure that the treatment worked, it's about 99% accurate as a marker for Sustained Viral Response. End of Treatment and SVR 4 are important as if they fail they're used in determining if another treatment, or if something else is needed.
SVR=Sustained Viral Response, I'll get more into what that is later, but know it's the closest thing to a cure with these bad boys.

SVR 12 is a blood test taken 12 weeks post treatment and SVR 12 is >99...% so it's an accurate marker, SVR 24 is clearly even better, but really not by much.

Lets go into a lil Virology lesson, why isn't it a cure?
The RX I was taking, Harvoni, doesn't kill the virus. Only anti-bodies can do that. What Harvoni does is target a non-structural protein in the liver hindering the viruses ability to replicate.

Old meds: boost interferon and give antibodies the tools to fight the virus, also mess with way the virus begins to replicate using Ribavirin. Ribavirin is an amazing tool and it works exceptionally well against many viruses. Hep C included.
Interferon with Ribavirin has an SVR rate of around 56%. And for a long time was the only tool to fight HCV. Compare that rate to modern HCV meds boasting over 90%

In 2011 two new drugs took to the market and changed how we look at the process. Boceprevir(Victrelis) and Telaprevir (Incivek) were both fantastic changes.  Victrelis was a small step in the way the meds changed, both meds were not large-scale changes on the patient side. They included new pills, with new restrictions, and in the case of Incivek would be a trial by fire.
These old meds had a large problem: the process was grueling, and it could take near a year, which lowered the completion rate.
In 2013 everything changed. Sovaldi, Olysio and Viekira Pak were in last phases of testing and readying FDA approval, instead of focusing on the initial processes of HCV infection, they turned their attention to the liver cell itself.

Before the meds targeted the virus in areas 1 2, and 3. Whereas now, the process if focused more on 3,4 and 5.

This super cool graphic illustrates a lot of stuff. Don't worry about most of it. They key part to understand is that each of these new meds targets those points after the NS2-NS3 protease cleavage site (the red arrow). Instead of going for the virus itself, the new meds altered the host via these nonstructural proteins to be less effective for reproduction.

This is a simple breakdown of SVR:
Think of the meds like this: If you have a house infested with ants, do you kill the ants themselves? Or do you poison their food supply? Or maybe even both!

It's a lot like that. New meds poison the food supply, and destroy the queen (the ability to reproduce)

So the Sustained Viral Response that occurs isn't so much an eradication of the virus, because the virus can linger for a while. Eventually without replication/reproduction, those viruses will die. The Sustained Viral Response (SVR) is the goal of any treatment, and I cannot wait for SVR 12.


  1. I have read this and I also took harvoni for 12 weeks.It was eradicated in 4 weeks, wondered why I had to take it for 2 more months. I was a paying customer. $36,000 for 3 months. And I took my last pill on march16 and the minisrty approved itto pay march 24th. Literally 8 days later Where r u from, canada? You seem to know a lot from your journey. I wish u luck.

  2. That's fantastic! I hope you keep that SVR.
    I'm from San Diego, California. Janssen (RnD for Olysio), Genentech (Lab for Roche who does PegaSys) and Intercept (NAFLD/NASH pharma RnD) are each a short drive from me.
    This meant that growing up, i was offered opportunities to participate in lots of studies. It had me keeping a pulse on the pharma industry at a young age.

    Thank you! I should have results back this week.