Hepatitis C Treatment Can
Lead To Complete Recovery
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who have been treated for chronic hepatitis C infection and remain free from the disease 6 months after treatment has ended are likely to recover completely, according to a study described in the July 1st issue of The Lancet.
Professor Stanislas Pol of Hopital Necker in Paris, France and associates studied 45 patients who had been treated for chronic hepatitis C with a combination of interferon alfa and ribavirin for 6 to 12 months. The investigators found that each maintained a response to the treatment 6 months after treatment had ended. Twenty-two months later, all but one still remained free from disease.
Pol told Reuters Health that a combined therapy of interferon alfa and ribavirin prevents the hepatitis C virus from replicating and gives the liver an opportunity to regenerate itself, something seen when the researchers compared pre-treatment liver biopsy results to the results of biopsies taken after treatment.
``We are convinced that efficient treatment may lead to complete recovery, since antiviral therapy results in the eradication of the viral replication in the so-called long-term responders,'' Pol said. ``The liver has the unique capacity to regenerate, and chronic hepatitis is the consequence of the active replication.''
Six months after discontinuing treatment, the results indicated a long-term response rate of 97.8%, reflected by normal liver enzymes and the absence of viral RNA in the blood.
Treatment with interferon alpha and ribavirin is very costly, ranging from $7,500 to $15,000, depending on the length of the therapy, which ranges from 6 to 12 months. Pol also noted the majority of hepatitis C-infected patients do not require antiviral therapy.
SOURCE: The Lancet 2000;356:41.
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