- 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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