Background: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a significant public health problem, with a worldwide prevalence of approximately 170 million. The standard of care for chronic HCV, a combination of α-interferon (IFN) and ribavirin, is only 50% effective, has serious side effects, and can be prohibitively expensive for low-income countries with a high prevalence of HCV. Many patients use natural products, including those who are not eligible for IFN/ribavirin, cannot afford treatment, or fail to respond to IFN.
Methods: Extensive literature searches were conducted in order to identify clinical trials and reviews of natural products used for treatment of chronic HCV. This review focuses on the composition, pharmacology and results of clinical trials of three natural products: Oxymatrine, TJ-108/schisandra/Gomisin A and lactoferrin.
Results: Several laboratory and human studies have been performed to evalaute these alternative treatments, but many of these studies are small, uncontrolled and have other important design flaws. While they do offer some safety and efficacy data, none of these studies is conclusive.
Conclusion: Further research is needed on the effectiveness of these natural products for treatment of chronic HCV, including their preparation and standardization.