A simple antihistamine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 70 years ago may be an effective and affordable way to treat hepatitis C, new research shows.
Published today in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported chlorcyclizine prevented hepatitis C infection in a petri dish and in humanized mice. They said it was effective and did not produce any significant cell toxicity when given along with existing drugs to treat hepatitis C.
But in stark contrast to existing hepatitis C drugs, which can cost $1,000 per pill, chlorcyclizine costs 50 cents per dose. The discovery could be a significant breakthrough in efforts to bring hepatitis C treatment to marginalized people around the world.

The antihistamine had a synergistic effect with FDA-approved hepatitis C drugs such as ribavirin, interferon, telaprevir, boceprevir, sofosbuvir (Sovaldi), daclatasvir, and cyclosporin A.
Many people with hepatitis C are having trouble accessing the latest generation of drugs. Sovaldi costs about $1,000 per pill but can cure the disease in 12 weeks. Many insurance companies won’t pay for the medication until a patient develops cirrhosis, or liver scarring.

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Scientists have discovered that a cheap hay fever medicine, about only fifty cents per pill, can be an effective treatment for hepatitis C virus infection, a severe liver disease that has generated drugs costing $1,000 per dosage.

This medicine known as antihistamine chlorcyclizine HCL (CCZ) has been approved and available since 1940s. National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers have established that repurposed chlorcyclizine and other related compounds can cure hepatitis C through early stage blocking of the virus, preventing liver cells infection.
Utilizing cell-based high-throughput screen, scientists have been able to identify that antihistamine can be a potent inhibitor of hepatitis C virus. This method has also been used to examine thousands of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs for their efficiency against bacterial and viral infections.

Dr. T. Jake Liang, head of Liver Diseases Department at NIH, noted that hepatitis C virus "continues to infect new cells as the infection goes on. So, our thought is, if we can prevent or destruct that reinfection process, the infected cells will die eventually, so you would not have any more infected cells."

The hepatitis C virus has been spreading through contaminated blood products and sexual contact. This infection can also lead to cirrhosis or liver hardening, liver failure and cancer.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3.2 million Americans have been living with chronic hepatitis C.

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