• Open Access

Expert opinion on the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C


Prof. Dr med. Stefan Zeuzem, Medizinische Klinik I, Zentrum der Inneren Medizin, Klinikum der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, D-60590 Frankfurt, Germany. E-mail: zeuzem@em.uni-frankfurt.de


Summary.  The current preferred treatment for patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is combination therapy consisting of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin (RBV) for 24–48 weeks. Although this approach appears to be highly effective for patients with HCV genotypes 2 or 3, who have a sustained virological response (SVR) of approximately 80%, the treatment algorithm is less effective for patients with HCV genotype 1, as these patients have SVR rates of just 40–50%. In order to improve treatment outcomes, this article explores potential approaches for the optimization of treatment for patients with HCV genotype 1: considering shorter treatment periods for patients with a rapid virological response (RVR), increasing treatment periods for slow responders, and increasing RBV dose are all suggestions. Results from clinical trials suggest that approximately 20% of the HCV genotype 1-infected population are slow responders, and around 15% of all HCV genotype-1 infected patients could benefit from a shorter treatment duration without compromising the SVR rate. Interest has also focused on whether treatment duration could be individualized in some patients with genotype 2 and 3 infection. Here all the findings from recent studies are translated into practical advice, to help practitioners make evidence-based treatment decisions in everyday clinical practice. Although there are areas where currently available data do not provide conclusive evidence to suggest amending treatment approaches, there is clearly potential for individualized treatment in all aspects of hepatitis treatment in the future.