Alternatives to ribavirin
One of the possible side effects of ribavirin is severe anaemia. If this occurs then it is likely that the dose of Ribavirin will be reduced, which in turn is thought to reduce the chances of achieving SVR. In some cases an alternative is to use a drug called Erythropoietin (EPO - Procrit, Epogen) alongside ribavirin.
Erythropoietin is a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production. When Erythropoietin is used the patient can continue with their current course of treatment and the chances of achieving SVR are not affected.
Taribavirin (formerly called Viramidine) is a pro-drug of Ribavirin that is converted to Ribavirin by the liver rather than the kidneys. This potentially reduces the risk of anaemia meaning that less people will be forced to reduce their dosage.
Taribavirin is taken orally. A recent study published in June 2010 has shown similar SVR rates to those achieved with Ribavirin when dosed by weight. It also revealed that Taribavirin causes less anaemia, minimizing the need for EPO’s and thus proving more cost effective.
Taribavirin is not the current standard of care in the UK.