Patients with chronic hepatitis C could benefit from direct-acting antiviral treatment, which has shown promise of lowering risk of premature death and liver cancer.
A French observational study followed around 10,000 patients. About 75 percent of the patients received direct-acting antivirals for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, while the rest were untreated.
Reduced Mortality Rates
Follow-up data from a total of 9,895 patients from 32 centers in France were observed within an average period of 33 months. The researchers expected that by administering direct-acting antivirals, the virus will become undetectable in the blood.
Results showed that the treatment is associated with lowered risk of mortality and hepatocellular cancer, the most common type of liver cancer. However, the same effect is not found in reducing the risk of decompensated cirrhosis.
A 2017 Cochrane study showed no evidence that the use of direct-acting antivirals has long-term negative effect on the patient. The study authors are hopeful that this regimen will help doctors and patients with their treatment plans.
"Taking a large cohort like this provides the opportunity to evaluate the effect of direct-acting antiviral therapy on the long-term outcomes of patients with hepatitis C," said Fabrice Carrat, a professor of public health, epidemiology, and biostatistics at Sorbonne Université in France.
Carrat's team said that the treatment allowed the liver to regenerate; hence, the decreased cancer and mortality risks.
"We saw a reduction of risk for complications related to the disease, and to mortality, and believe this treatment should be considered for all patients with chronic hepatitis C infection."
The study was published Feb. 11 in The Lancet.
Global Health Concern
Chronic hepatitis C is a global health problem affecting approximately 71 million people, according to the 2017 WHO report. If left untreated, chronic HCV infection can lead to liver diseases such as cancer and cirrhosis and eventually death.
Hepatitis C is not only associated with hepatocellular risks but also the worsening opioid crisis. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a huge increase in the incidence of HCV infection is related to increased opioid injection.
"Hepatitis C is a deadly, common, and often invisible result of America's opioid crisis," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention arm of the CDC.
Mermin said that treating people who test positive for HCV infection will prevent new transmissions and mitigate the impact of the country's opioid crisis.