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Treatment of hepatitis C: critical appraisal of the evidence

  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2005
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
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Chronic hepatitis C virus infection is currently the most common cause of end stage liver disease worldwide. Although the conclusions of the last National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conferences on Hepatitis C have recently been published, several important issues remain unanswered. This paper reviews the available data using an evidence-based approach. Current evidence is sufficient to recommend IFN treatment for all patients with acute hepatitis. A later initiation of therapy yields the same likelihood of response as early treatment. A daily induction dose during month 1 is the best treatment option. The current gold standard of efficacy for treatment-naive patients with chronic hepatitis C is the combination of pegylated IFN and ribavirin. The overall sustained viral response rate to these regimens is 54 - 56% following a 48-week course of therapy. Patients with genotype 1 infection will have a 42 - 51% likelihood of response to 48weeks of therapy. Those with genotypes 2 or 3 infection will respond to 24weeks in 78 - 82% of cases. Debate continues regarding the optimal dose and duration of peginterferon (PEG-IFN), not only in patients infected with genotype 2 or 3 but also in those infected with genotype 1. The optimal dose of ribavirin has yet to be determined. Available data show the need to give the highest tolerable doses (1000-1200mg/day) to the difficult-to-treat patients (genotype 1, cirrhotics, obese), although there is a greater likelihood of intolerance. Genotypes 2 and 3 may receive 800mg/day, which is also the most appropriate lower dose for those patients who require dosage modification for anaemia or other side effects. Tolerability and compliance to therapy are still a problem, as approximately 15- 20% of patients within trials and > 25% in clinical practice withdraw from therapy. New PEG-IFNs are more effective than conventional IFN in improving liver histology. Monotherapy with PEG-IFN induces a marked reduction in staging in virological sustained responders, and to a lesser degree in relapsers, but provides no benefit to nonresponders after 24-48weeks of treatment. The use of maintenance therapy in virological nonresponders aiming to improve histology should be considered experimental and of unproven benefit. Pooling data from the literature suggests a slight preventive effect of IFN on hepatocellular carcinoma development in patients with HCV-related cirrhosis. The magnitude of this effect is low and the observed benefit may be due to spurious associations. The preventive effect is more evident among sustained responders to IFN.