A Taiwanese research institute has developed a drug that contains herbal extracts used for treating hepatitis C and it is now in phase-two clinical trials, a Ministry of Economic Affairs official said on Tuesday.
The new drug not only inhibits hepatitis C virus (HCV) activity, but can also boost the immune system, the official said.
It was developed by the -government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (工研院), based on the properties of traditional herbal medicines that modulate the immune system.
The Department of Health has given approval for clinical trials of the drug and it is currently in phase-two testing at Kaohsiung Medical University’s Chung Ho Memorial Hospital, according to the official.
The processing technology has been transferred to PhytoHealth Corp (懷特生技新藥), the first drug development company in Taiwan to list on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.
HCV is spread through contact with infected blood and about 170 million people worldwide are infected with it. Currently, there is no vaccine against the virus.
It is not yet known how HCV damages the livers of long-term carriers, but the risk of people with hepatitis C developing liver cancer is 10 times higher than normal, particularly if the carriers consume alcohol.
Shares of PhytoHealth rose by the daily limit to close at NT$55.9 yesterday. The company said on Monday its unconsolidated sales rose 47.58 percent to NT$14.72 million (US$514,200) last month from a year earlier. In the first four months, accumulated sales increased 159.43 percent to NT$39.73 million.