Amarillo Biosciences, Inc. announced this morning that clinical supplies were shipped to CytoPharm, Inc., its partner in Taiwan, for use in a study of 165 patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection. The objective of this trial is to reduce the virologic relapse rate for those patients who have taken high dose injectable interferon alpha and Ribavirin.

The trial’s start date is anticipated to occur in the second quarter of this year and to be completed next year. The patients participating in the study will receive one of two different dosages of oral human interferon alpha or placebo daily for 24 weeks, then receive no treatment for 24 weeks to observe for relapse.

Today, there are approximately 170 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C virus worldwide. The incidence of cirrhosis in chronic hepatitis C patients is 10-20%, and 1-5% develop liver cancer. Most infections are transmitted by direct contact with blood through transfusions not screened for hepatitis C virus, inadequately sterilized needles and syringes, sexual and perinatal transmission. Currently there is no effective vaccine against hepatitis C virus.

In the press release, the company also announced that its Taiwanese partner will be testing oral interferon in human studies of chronic active hepatitis B and influenza.