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Summary

Background

Limited data are available on the efficacy and safety of antiviral therapy in geriatric patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

Aim

To evaluate the efficacy and safety of pegylated interferon (pegIFN) plus ribavirin (RBV) therapy in geriatric HCV-infected patients.

Methods

Ninety-one geriatric patients (age ≥65 years; the elderly group) with HCV infection and 91 gender- and HCV genotype-matched middle-aged patients (age 50–64 years; the younger group) were assigned to receive weekly pegIFN injection plus weight-based oral RBV for 24 weeks. The on- and off-treatment virological responses were evaluated for treatment efficacy.

Results

In intention-to-treat analysis, the sustained virological response (SVR) rate was substantially decreased in the elderly patients (elderly group vs. younger group, 40.7% vs. 61.5%, respectively; P = 0.005). The SVR rate was significantly lower in geriatric patients than in middle-aged patients with HCV genotype non-1 (54.3% vs. 82.9%; P = 0.01), but the difference was not significant with HCV genotype 1 (32.1% vs. 48.2%; P = 0.083). Furthermore, the older patients infected with HCV genotype non-1 who achieved a rapid virological response had a similar SVR rate to that of the younger patients. The withdrawal rate was 13.2% in the elderly group and 7.7% in the younger group.

Conclusions

Compared with middle-aged patients, the therapeutic efficacy of pegylated interferon plus ribavirin therapy is lower in hepatitis C virus-infected geriatric patients with an acceptable withdrawal rate. Considering prolonged lifespan in geriatric patients, we recommend treating geriatric hepatitis C virus-infected patients who have significant hepatic fibrosis and no other health problems.