Zidovudine use but not weight-based ribavirin dosing impacts anaemia during HCV treatment in HIV-infected persons


Mark Sulkowski, Johns Hopkins University, 600 North Wolfe Street, 1830 Building, Room 448, Baltimore, MD 21287-0003 USA. E-mail msulkows@jhmi.edu


Summary.  Anaemia during peginterferon (PEG-IFN) and ribavirin (RBV) therapy is common in human immunodeficiency virus/hepatitis C virus (HIV/HCV)-coinfected patients despite the use of lower doses of RBV than are recommended for HIV-seronegative persons. In addition, concurrent zidovudine (ZDV) may exacerbate the anaemia caused by PEG-IFN and RBV. We retrospectively analysed the incidence of anaemia, RBV dose reduction and epoetin-alpha (EPO) use among coinfected patients treated with PEG-IFN and weight-based RBV (800–1400 mg/day) who enrolled in two clinical trials and had haemoglobin (Hb) levels assessed at baseline and after 4 and/or 12 weeks of HCV treatment. Overall, 217 patients were included; pre-treatment Hb levels (mean 14.7 g/dL) were similar in all patients, including ZDV users (29% of patients). After 4 weeks of therapy, the mean Hb decline was greater among ZDV recipients (3.13 g/dL) compared with those on other anti-retroviral treatment (ART) (2.13 g/dL) or on no ART (1.47 g/dL) (P < 0.0001). RBV dose reduction and EPO use were more common in patients taking ZDV compared with those not taking ZDV (P < 0.0001). RBV dose was not associated with Hb reduction, RBV dose reduction or EPO use. Virologic response after 12 weeks of therapy and the treatment discontinuation rate did not differ by ZDV use. The use of ZDV but not weight-based RBV dosing was associated with an increased risk of anaemia, RBV dose reduction or EPO use in coinfected patients treated with PEG-IFN/RBV. However, ZDV use was not associated with higher rates of treatment discontinuation or lower early virologic response rates. HIV and hepatitis C care providers should be cognizant of these data.