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Minerva Medica 2008 December;99(6):569-82


language: English

What is on the horizon for treatment of chronic hepatitis C?

Bergmann J. F., De Knegt R. J., Janssen H. L. A.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, The Netherlands


Current guidelines for chronic Hepatitis C recommend peginterferon-alpha and ribavirin combination therapy for 24 or 48 weeks, based on viral factors (genotype, viral load), host factors (stage of liver disease) and virological response during treatment. The main goal of treatment is eradication of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection which is defined by HCV RNA negativity 24 weeks after end of treatment (i.e. sustained virological response, SVR). SVR can be achieved in up to 80% of patients. Most patients, however, experience adverse events during therapy which significantly affect drug compliance and treatment outcome. Several strategies have been evaluated in order to optimize outcome of current peginterferon-based therapy, including higher dosing of peginterferon and/or ribavirin, and adjusting therapy duration. Although some patients might benefit from these optimized treatment schedules, viral eradication remains unachievable in a substantial part of patients. In this perspective, there is a clear need for effective alternative or additional agents, especially as the burden of disease is expected to increase over the next decade. Potential novel antiviral targets are now being identified due to improved understanding of the HCV life cycle. Specifically targeted antiviral therapy for Hepatitis C (STAT-C) is in clinical development and has already shown to increase SVR rate. At this moment, however, SVR can only be achieved when combining new molecules with peginterferon therapy. The role of ribavirin has been questioned, but available evidence suggests that ribavirin has significant impact on treatment outcome and should therefore remain part of antiviral therapy. More than a decade of interferon-based therapy and potential new agents will be reviewed.

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