Managing the hematologic side effects of antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C

Anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia

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Hematologic abnormalities such as anemia, neutropenia, and thrombocytopenia are common during combination therapy with pegylated (or standard) interferon and ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C. Ribavirin-induced hemolytic anemia is a common cause of dose reduction or discontinuation. Bone marrow suppression also contributes to the anemia and is the predominant mechanism for interferon-induced neutropenia and thrombocytopenia. Although dose reduction or discontinuation of combination therapy can reverse these abnormalities, they may reduce virologic response. Hematopoietic growth factors may provide a useful alternative for managing these hematologic side effects without reducing the optimal dose of the combination antiviral regimen. Treatment of anemia also may improve patients' health-related quality of life and their adherence to combination antiviral therapy. The impact of growth factors on sustained virologic response and their cost-effectiveness in patients with chronic hepatitis C need further assessment.


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