The tens of
thousands of people in the United States who are
infected by hepatitis B each year were given access
to a new drug on Wednesday to fight the virus.
The Food and Drug
Administration said it approved Tyzeka, known
generically as telbivudine, for use in treating adults with
chronic hepatitis B. The drug is not a cure but can
suppress the hepatitis B virus and reduce the liver
inflammation that accompanies the disease, the FDA
Hepatitis B is
caused by a virus that infects the liver. It can cause
scarring, cancer, and failure of the liver as well as death.
There are now six FDA-approved drugs to treat
developed by Idenix Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge,
Mass., and the Swiss drug company Novartis Pharma AG.
The Hepatitis B
Foundation estimates that nearly 100,000 people in the
United States are infected annually. Most recover from the
infection, although some go on to develop chronic
conditions. About 5,000 people in the United States
die each year from hepatitis B and its complications.
The virus can be
spread through infected blood, typically during
unprotected sex, childbirth, or through the sharing or reuse
of hypodermic needles.
Side effects of
Tyzeka include elevated levels of an enzyme suggestive of
the breakdown of muscle tissue, upper respiratory tract
infection, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain, and
cough, the FDA said.
Among other drugs
in the same class, there have been reports of fatal
cases in which patients suffered severe enlargement and
accumulation of fat in the liver, the FDA said. (AP)
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