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Scientists find new use for old diabetes medicine, pointing to improved outcomes in hepatitis B treatment

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The Hague • 6 October 2020

Work by pharmaceutical scientists in Japan has found that the thiazolidinedione troglitazone inhibits internalisation of hepatis B virus (HBV). “Current anti-HBV agents, including nucleoside analogues and interferons, can reduce viral load, but are not generally curative. Thus, the development of anti-HBV agents with different modes of action is required to improve treatment outcomes,” said Kento Fukano, of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, Japan.

The research was presented at the Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress, which was held online this week by the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP). “Virus internalisation into host cells is the initial step of infection, which means that this compound could be used for post-exposure prophylaxis. However, as viral entry is also essential for the initiation, spread and maintenance of viral infection, troglitazone is also a potential treatment for chronic hepatitis B,” Dr Fukano explained.

In addition, a mechanism of action has been identified: troglitazone was found to clearly impede the oligomerisation of NTCP (sodium taurocholate cotransporting polypeptide), which is an entry receptor. “These results suggest that the oligomerisation of NTCP has potential to regulate HBV internalisation and it can serve as a new target for the development of anti-HBV agents,” Dr Fukano added.

According to the researchers, troglitazone is the first small molecule that has been shown to act in this way, potentially expanding the landscape of treatment options. “Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) is a human-derived antibody that can neutralise infection. It is currently the only entry inhibitor to have obtained approval for treatment, but its use is limited by cost and supply issues as HBIG molecules are obtained from vaccinated human donors. In contrast, troglitazone is cheap, we can maintain a more stable supply, and it can be administered orally, which is an advantage for developing countries with scarce medical resources,” Dr Fukano explained.

Notes for editors

The World Health Organization estimates that in 2015, 257 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection. It also estimated that HBV caused 887,000 deaths in 2015, mostly from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Link The research poster presented at PSWC2020 can be accessed here.

About FIP The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the global federation of national associations of pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists and pharmacy educators, and is in official relations with the World Health Organization.

About PSWC 2020 FIP’s 7th Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress is being held virtually from 4 to 6 October.

Lin-Nam Wang, Head of Corporate Communications & Advocacy 
Tel +31 6 316 29160

Last update 5 July 2018

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