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End-stage liver disease due to chronic hepatitis C is the leading indication for orthotopic liver transplantation in the United States. Twenty percent to 30% of hepatitis C patients are at increased risk of developing cirrhosis, and 1% to 4% of cirrhotic patients will develop hepatocellular carcinoma. These findings warrant treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected patients.
Currently, the mainstay in treatment of HCV is the use of recombinant alpha interferon, or its equivalent, in combination with the oral antiviral agent ribavirin.
The major goals of therapy are clearance of the virus, achieving a noninfectious state, and halting the necro-inflammatory process that leads to fibrosis and progression to cirrhosis.
End of treatment response (ETR) is biochemical and virological remission—normalization of serum aminotransferase (ALT) and undetectable levels of HCV RNA, at the end of therapy.
Sustained virological response (SVR) is defined as the absence of viremia and persistently normal aminotransferase 6 months off treatment, and is the ultimate goal of therapy. Patients who achieve SVR will have significant and persistent histologic improvement.
HCV genotype, pretreatment levels of HCV-RNA (viral load), the presence of advanced fibrosis or cirrhosis, gender, and age are independent predictors of response.
Ribavirin is teratogenic, therefore, contraception is mandatory for both males and females during and up to 6 months after therapy.
Side effects of combination therapy are dose-dependent and most commonly include symptoms of irritability, depression and fatigue, and laboratory evidences of leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, and hemolytic anemia.
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- Hepatitis C
Current Treatment Options in Gastroenterology
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