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Good news, bad news about HCV in kidney disease



– There’s good news and bad news about hepatitis C virus (HCV) in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD): The new generation of drugs that cures HCV is effective in this population, but outbreaks of infection are still plaguing the nation’s dialysis clinics.

Dr. Paul Martin University of Miami Miller school of Medicine

Dr. Paul Martin

These perspectives came in a presentation about infections in CKD at Kidney Week 2018, sponsored by the American Society of Nephrology.

First, the good news about HCV. “Treatment is now feasible for all stages of chronic kidney disease,” said gastroenterologist Paul Martin, MD, of the University of Miami. “It was possible to achieve biological cure in 99% of patients, which is truly remarkable considering what a problem kidney patients were for hepatitis C until very recently.”

The key is to treat HCV with drug combinations that lower the risk of viral resistance. “These drugs are extremely well tolerated. They’re not like interferon or ribavirin,” he said, referring to a drug combo that was formerly used to treat HCV. “We can anticipate curing hepatitis C with a finite amount of therapy in virtually every patient we see, including those with kidney disease.”

In patients with CKD, all the new drugs are approved for glomerular filtration rates greater than 30 mL/min. Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) is not approved for patients with a filtration rate under 30 mL/min, he said, but other options are available.

Ribavirin, he added, is no longer needed with current regimens.

Dr. Martin pointed to two studies that reveal the power of the new regimens against HCV in patients with CKD. One of the studies, a 2015 industry-funded report in the Lancet, found that “once-daily grazoprevir and elbasvir for 12 weeks had a low rate of adverse events and was effective in patients infected with HCV genotype 1 and stage 4-5 chronic kidney disease.” The other study, also funded by industry and published in 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that “treatment with glecaprevir and pibrentasvir for 12 weeks resulted in a high rate of sustained virologic response in patients with stage 4 or 5 chronic kidney disease and HCV infection.”

Meanwhile, there are signs that HCV treatment may boost survival in CKD patients on dialysis, Dr. Martin said.

In terms of bad news, Priti R. Patel, MD, MPH, a medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that dialysis clinics are still seeing HCV outbreaks. “It’s a continuing problem,” she said. “What we hear about at the CDC is the tip of the iceberg.”

The CDC says it received word of 21 HCV outbreaks of two or more cases in dialysis clinics during 2008-2017. These affected 102 patients, and more than 3,000 patients were notified that they were at risk and should be screened.

One dialysis clinic in Philadelphia had 18 cases of HCV during 2008-2013; they were blamed on “multiple lapses in infection control ... including hand hygiene and glove use, vascular access care, medication preparation, cleaning, and disinfection.”

“There should be no more than one case that has to happen for a facility to detect that it has a problem and identify a solution,” Dr. Patel said.

Since acute HCV can appear without symptoms, every dialysis patients should be tested for HCV antibodies, she added. “If it’s positive, confirm it. If confirmed, they should be informed of their infection status and have an evaluation for treatment.”

Dr. Martin reported consulting for Bristol-Myers Squibb and AbbVie and receiving research funding from Gilead, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie, and Merck. Dr. Patel reported no disclosures.

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