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Individualisation of antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C

Authors

  • Narci C Teoh,

    Corresponding author
    1. Gastroenterology and Hepatology Unit, Australian National University Medical School at The Canberra Hospital, Australian Capital Territory, Australia; and
    • Associated Professor Narci Teoh, Gastroenterology and Hepatology Unit, The Canberra Hospital, Yamba Drive, Garran, ACT 2605, Australia. Email: narci.teoh@anu.edu.au

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  • Geoffrey C Farrell,

    1. Gastroenterology and Hepatology Unit, Australian National University Medical School at The Canberra Hospital, Australian Capital Territory, Australia; and
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  • Henry L-Y Chan

    1. Department of Medicine and Therapeutics and Institute of Digestive Disease, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
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Abstract

The combination of pegylated-interferon (PEG-IFN)/ribavirin is currently the standard of care antiviral treatment for chronic hepatitis C (CHC), but optimal results require an individual approach. Key issues are to deliver doses that confer optimal antiviral efficacy against hepatitis C virus (HCV) for a time sufficient to minimise relapse. Viral monitoring during therapy guides the subsequent treatment course, particularly HCV RNA results at 4 weeks (rapid viral response [RVR]) and 12 weeks (complete early viral response [cEVR]). There is strong evidence that for most patients with genotypes 2 or 3 HCV infection, RVR allows truncation of treatment to 16 weeks, provided ribavirin dose is weight-based. However, those patients with cirrhosis, insulin resistance/diabetes or older than 50 years need 6–12 months treatment. For “difficult-to-treat” CHC (genotypes 1 and 4), RVR is infrequent (∼15% in European studies), but allows treatment to be truncated from 48 to 24 weeks. Without RVR, there is some evidence that longer treatment (72 weeks) improves sustained viral response (SVR). However, “induction dosing” first 12 weeks of PEG-IFN clearly does not improve SVR. To prevent dose reductions and complete therapy, it is critical to detect and treat depression and other disabling side-effects, including judicious use of growth factors for severe anemia or neutropenia and possibly, thrombocytopenia. Another potentially important aspect may be attempts to counter central obesity and insulin resistance, which confer suboptimal antiviral response with any HCV genotype. Treatment partnerships with specialist nurses, psychological therapists and other healthcare workers are also essential for optimal individual management of patients with CHC.

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