Abstract: Background: The treatment of hepatitis C patients with advanced cirrhotic liver disease remains challenging and data on the outcome of treatment for this patient group is limited.
Results: Between September 2000 and August 2004, 61 cirrhotic patients started treatment with pegylated interferon and ribavirin (42 male, age range 29–69 years, 26 Asian). Forty-three (70%) patients were serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA negative at the end of treatment and 24 (39%) achieved a sustained virological response (SVR). SVR was achieved for 35% (6/17) of patients with genotype 1, and for 39% (16/41) with genotype 3. Caucasians with genotype 3 demonstrated a higher cure rate (SVR 10/18=56%) than Asians (SVR 6/24=25%). Failure to achieve SVR was associated with lower platelet count, neutrophil count and albumin at baseline. Twenty patients suffered clinical or laboratory decompensation, five patients required hospitalization, and two patients died. Patients who experienced hepatic decompensation were older and had baseline characteristics associated with more advanced liver disease.
Conclusion: The treatment of patients with advanced HCV is challenging, although many treated patients achieve SVR. Significant toxicity is experienced and there is treatment-related mortality. This balance of efficacy and toxicity needs to be considered before commencing treatment.