Combined antiviral therapy of hepatitis C virus in dialysis patients: meta-analysis of clinical trials


Dr Fabrizio Fabrizi, Divisione Nefrologica, Ospedale Maggiore, Pad. Croff, Via Commenda 15, 20122, Milano, Italy. E-mail:


Summary.  The efficacy and safety of combined interferon (IFN) plus ribavirin in patients on long-term dialysis and chronic hepatitis C remains unclear, although a number of small clinical trials have addressed this issue. We evaluated the efficacy and safety of combination antiviral therapy (conventional or pegylated interferon plus ribavirin) in dialysis patients with chronic hepatitis C by performing a systematic review of the literature with a meta-analysis of clinical trials. The primary outcome was sustained virological response (SVR) (as a measure of efficacy); the secondary outcome was drop-out rate (as a measure of tolerability). We used the random effects model of Der Simonian and Laird, with heterogeneity and sensitivity analyses. We identified 10 clinical studies (151 unique patients), one (10%) of which was a controlled clinical trial. Most (97.4%) patients were on long-term haemodialysis. The summary estimate for SVR and drop-out rate was 56% [95% Confidence Intervals (95% CI) 28–84] and 25% (95% CI, 10–40), respectively. The most frequent side effects requiring interruption of treatment were anaemia (26%) and heart failure (9%). These results occurred irrespective of type of interferon (conventional or peg-IFN, peg-IFNalfa-2a or alfa-2b), trial design (controlled or cohort study), or clinical characteristics of patients (naïve, nonresponders or relapsers). The studies were heterogeneous with regard to SVR and drop-out rate. Combination antiviral therapy (interferon plus ribavirin) gives encouraging results in terms of efficacy and safety among dialysis patients even if the limited number of patients enrolled in our meta-analysis hampers definitive conclusions.