Aim : To use meta-analysis to study the risk of anaemiarelated to ribavirin therapy for chronic hepatitisC.

Methods : The MEDLINE database up to January 2001 was searched for randomized controlled trials of ribavirin (monotherapy or combined with interferon) for chronic hepatitis C. The outcomes evaluated were withdrawal from the study due to anaemia, ribavirin dosage reduction due to a decrease in haemoglobin and haemoglobin levels below 10 g/dL.

Results : Based on 17 studies, the overall risk difference (ribavirin vs. no ribavirin) for anaemia was 0.09 [95% confidence interval (CI), 0.04–0.13]. Two Asian studies reported risk differences of 0.29 and 0.22, greater than the pooled risk difference of 0.07 (95% CI, 0.03–0.12) for 15 non-Asian studies. The risk associated with 1 g or more of ribavirin per day was higher (risk difference, 0.09; 95% CI, 0.04–0.14) than that for 0.8 g of ribavirin per day (risk difference, 0.01; 95% CI, − 0.04–0.06).

Conclusions : Chronic hepatitis C patients treated with 1 g or more of ribavirin per day were at a higher risk of developing anaemia. Reported risks were higher among Asian studies, which may be due to differences in study entrance criteria, dosage titration strategy or ethnic vulnerability.