In a recent press release, biopharmaceutical company Hongkong Winhealth Pharma Group Co., Ltd. (“Winhealth”) announced a new strategic cooperation agreement between itself and Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH (“Merz”). Altogether, this agreement allows Winhealth to gain exclusive commercial rights to Hepa-Merz in China. The therapy, also known as L-ornithine L-aspartate, is designed to prevent hepatic encephalopathy (HE) in patients with liver cirrhosis.
Currently, both Merz and Winhealth are excited about the prospect of introducing Hepa-Merz to patients in China. Currently, as Hepa-Merz is the only imported LOLA in China, it offers the opportunity to fulfill an unmet need. According to WebMD, L-ornithine L-aspartate is:
a chemical made up of the two amino acids ornithine and aspartic acid. L-ornithine-L-aspartate increases the levels of ornithine and aspartic acid in the body, [which can] help to reduce levels of a toxic chemical called ammonia in the blood.
Typically, in patients with HE, liver disease is the initial cause. When the liver cannot clear toxins, like ammonia, it travels to the brain. So if Hepa-Merz is able to reduce blood ammonia levels, it can reduce the risk of HE. Prior data suggests that Hepa-Merz is effective in inhibiting or fully preventing HE development.
Hepatic Encephalopathy (HE)
In many cases, liver disease is the leading cause of hepatic encephalopathy (HE), a rare brain disorder. When the liver is unable to clear toxins, these toxins travel to the brain. Other causes of HE include a portosystemic shunt. If occurring in HE episodes, alcohol binges, low oxygen levels, infections, drugs, and gastrointestinal bleeding can all be causes. However, those with liver cirrhosis are most at risk, with a 70% chance of developing HE. Because causes vary, so do symptoms. Thus, the following list (though comprehensive) will not account for every patient’s experience. Symptoms may include:
- Confusion and/or disorientation
- Slurred speech
- Amnesia (total or partial memory loss)
- Sweet or musty-smelling breath
- Changes in mood, behavior, or personality
- Lack of restraint
- Skill regression
- Poor coordination
- Swelling in the brain
- Intracranial hypertension
In some cases, HE may also cause life-threatening complications, including kidney and respiratory issues; sepsis; and heart failure. With proper treatment and early diagnosis, HE symptoms are reversible.