Understudied populations with hepatitis C


  • Doris B. Strader M.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.
    • Assistant Chief, Department of Hepatology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 50 Irving St, NW., Washington, DC 20422. fax: 202–745–8453
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Managing patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection consists primarily of antiviral treatment, currently with peginterferon and ribavirin. Unfortunately, treatment recommendations derive largely from trials that have focused on highly selected patient populations. As a consequence of the strict inclusion and exclusion criteria in these studies, more than half of all HCV-infected patients would be ineligible for enrollment. Even among the selected patients enrolled into studies, only 50% achieve a sustained virological response (SVR). Patients not eligible for current therapies include those with mild disease and normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, patients with advanced and decompensated liver disease, children, the elderly, patients with ongoing or recent alcohol and substance abuse, renal disease, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, severe psychiatric or neurologic illness, autoimmune disorders, solid organ transplant, and other significant comorbid conditions. Because these patients have been excluded from most clinical trials, little is known about the safety or efficacy of therapy in these populations. The expense and side effects of therapy are also an impediment to treatment of patients who are on public assistance, in prisons, and in institutions. Clearly, new efforts and new approaches are needed to expand the eligibility for antiviral therapy of hepatitis C and make treatment more available for understudied populations with this disease. (Hepatology 2002;36:S226–S236).