AASLD 2014: Grazoprevir/ Elbasvir Combo Shows High Cure Rates, Including Cirrhotics and Coinfected


An all-oral regimen of grazoprevir (MK-5172) and elbasvir (MK-8742), taken with or without ribavirin for 12 weeks, demonstrated high sustained virological response rates for treatment-naive and treatment-experienced genotype 1 hepatitis C patients, including people with liver cirrhosis and HIV/HCV coinfection, according to research presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Liver Meeting this week in Boston and published simultaeously in The Lancet. However, pushing treatment duration with this combination plus sofosbuvir down to 4 or 6 weeks raised the risk of treatment failure.

C-WORTHY: HIV+ and HIV- Non-Cirrhotics

The Phase 2 C-WORTHY trial evaluated Merck's investigational HCV protease inhibitor grazoprevir plus NS5A inhibitor elbasvir, taken with or without ribavirin. After Part A saw good outcomes for previously untreated genotype 1 hepatitis C patients without liver cirrhosis, the study was expanded to include more people with traditional predictors of poor treatment response.

Overall, the trial included:

Mark Sulkowski from Johns Hopkins reported final combined results from the 218 HCV monoinfected and HIV/HCV coinfected patients without cirrhosis in both Part and A and Part B.

Half of the HCV monoinfected participants and 80% of the coinfected patients were men, most were white, and the mean ages were 49 and 45 years, respectively. Three-quarters had harder-to-treat HCV genotype 1a and most had unfavorable IL28B gene variants. More than 90% had absent-to-mild liver fibrosis, while 8% had advanced fibrosis (stage F3).

The HIV/HCV coinfected participants were required to be on stable antiretroviral therapy containing raltegravir (Isentress), which was shown not to interact with the HCV drugs. They had CD4 T-cell counts above 300 cells/mm3 (median 626 cells/mm3) and undetectable HIV viral load for at least 6 months.

Among the HCV monoinfected participants, a group of 30 people with genotype 1a received grazoprevir plus 50 mg elbasvir for 8 weeks. Another 129 people with genotype 1a or 1b where assigned to take grazoprevir plus either 20 mg or 50 mg elbasvir plus ribavirin, or else 50 mg elbasvir without ribavirin, for 12 weeks. The 59 coinfected patients were assigned to take grazoprevir plus 50 mg elbasvir either with or without ribavirin for 12 weeks.


In response to a question about coinfected patients using other antiretrovirals besides raltegravir, Sulkowski said that studies were underway testing the Merck HCV drugs with dolutegravir (Tivicay, also in the Triumeq coformulation) and rilpivirine (Edurant, also in Complera).

C-WORTHY: Cirrhotics and Null Responders

Eric Lawitz from the Texas Liver Institute reported results from the remaining harder-to-treat C-WORTHY subgroups, consisting of 253 patients with liver cirrhosis and/or prior null response to interferon-based therapy.

Nearly 60% were men, most were white, and the mean age was approximately 55 years. About 70% of treatment-naive and 60% of treatment-experienced patients had HCV genotype 1a. All of the treatment-naive patients and about 35% of the null responders had cirrhosis.


The researchers concluded that "high efficacy was achieved regardless of the presence of absence of ribavirin or extended treatment duration from 12 to 18 weeks."

Several other studies presented at the Liver Meeting showed that use of ribavirin or longer treatment durations may still be necessary for some hard-to-treat patients, including cirrhotics. Lawitz said the results so far from C-WORTHY suggest that ribavirin may not be required with grazoprevir/elbasvir, and that 12 weeks of therapy may be sufficient, but further data from larger phase 3 trials are needed.

Results from C-WORTHY support ongoing Phase 3 development of grazoprevir plus elbasvir, the researchers concluded. The drugs are now being tested in a once-daily fixed-dose coformulation. Merck's Phase 3 trials C-EDGE TN (treatment-naive), C-EDGE CO-INFXN (HIV/HCV coinfected) and C-EDGE TE (treatment-experienced) are now fully enrolled. Results are expected in the first half of 2015, at which point the company plans to file for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, according to a Merck press release.

C-SWIFT: Minimum Treatment Duration

While everyone would like to minimize treatment duration in order to improve convenience and adherence and reduce toxicities and cost, results from another Merck study, presented as a late-breaking poster, showed that very short treatment is not as effective.

C-SWIFT was an exploratory Phase 2 trial designed to test the efficacy of short regimens consisting of the grazoprevir/elbasvir coformulation plus Gilead Sciences' nucleotide HCV polymerase inhibitor sofosbuvir (Sovaldi). Participants in this study did not use ribavirin. Researchers hypothesized that the triple regimen -- which targets 3 separate steps of the HCV lifecycle -- might allow for a shorter duration of treatment.

This trial enrolled 102 genotype 1 hepatitis C patients at the Texas Liver Institute, including 41 with cirrhosis. All were previously untreated and about 81% had HCV genotype 1a. Non-cirrhotic participants were randomly assigned to receive the 3-drug regimen for 4 or 6 weeks, while those with cirrhosis were treated for 6 or 8 weeks. (Another part of this trial, not reported at the meeting, is looking at the triple combination taken for 8 or 12 weeks for people with HCV genotype 3.)

All genotype 1 patients had data available through post-treatment week 4, and most through post-treatment week 8, allowing researchers to determine interim SVR4/8 results. Hepatitis C is not considered cured until post-treatment week 12.


"A regimen combining three potent antivirals may be able to shorten treatment duration to 6-8 weeks among cirrhotic and non-cirrhotic genotype 1-infected patients," the researchers concluded. They suggested that factors including HCV subtype (1a vs 1b), baseline viral load, IL28B status and drug pharmacokinetics might have contributed to the lower likelihood of response in the shorter duration arms.

"These interim data provide a compelling proof-of-concept for the potential of an 8- or 6-week triple therapy course in treatment-naive patients with genotype 1 disease, including cirrhotic patients," Lawitz stated in another Merck press release. "These findings will inform the design of larger studies aimed at understanding the potential of short-duration triple therapy across multiple patient types."

Merck indicated that it plans to start phase 2 trials -- dubbed C-CREST -- testing grazoprevir/elbasvir with the company's own nucleoside polymerase inhibitor MK-3682 (formerly Idenix's IDX21437), as well as a triple regimen containing the early-stage NS5A inhibitor MK-8408.



E Lawitz, EJ Gane, B Pearlman, et al. Efficacy and safety of MK-5172 and MK-8742 +/- ribavirin in hepatitis C genotype 1 infected patients with cirrhosis or previous null response: Final results of the C-WORTHY Study (Parts A and B). American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Liver Meeting. Boston, November 7-12, 2014. Abstract 196.

MS Sulkowski, C Hezode, J Gerstoft, et al. Efficacy and safety of MK-5172 + MK-8742 +/- ribavirin in HCV mono-infected and HIV/HCV co-infected treatment-naive, non-cirrhotic patients with hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection: The C-WORTHY study (Final results, Parts A and B). American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Liver Meeting. Boston, November 7-12, 2014. Abstract 236.

E Lawitz, F Poordad, JA Gutierrez, et al. C-SWIFT: MK-5172 + MK-8742 + sofosbuvir in treatment-naive patients with hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection, with and without cirrhosis, for durations of 4, 6, or 8 weeks. American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Liver Meeting. Boston, November 7-12, 2014. Abstract 2014.

E Lawitz, E Gane, B Pearlman, et al. Efficacy and safety of 12 weeks versus 18 weeks of treatment with grazoprevir (MK-5172) and elbasvir (MK-8742) with or without ribavirin for hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection in previously untreated patients with cirrhosis and patients with previous null response with or without cirrhosis (C-WORTHY): a randomised, open-label phase 2 trial. The Lancet. November 11, 2014 (Epub ahead of print).

Other Sources

Merck. Merck Announces Results from Phase 2 Study of Investigational Chronic Hepatitis C Treatment Grazoprevir/Elbasvir in Genotype 1 Infected Treatment- Naive and Difficult-to-Cure Patients. Press release. November 11, 2014.

Merck. Interim Data from Proof-of-Concept Study of Merck’s Investigational Hepatitis C Treatment Grazoprevir/Elbasvir in Combination with a Nucleotide Inhibitor (C-SWIFT study) Presented at The Liver Meeting. Press release. November 9, 2014.