Conference Coverage

Treatment of HCV in special populations


 

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM GUILD 2018

– Treatment of acute rather than chronic hepatitis C infection is well worth considering in selected circumstances, Norah Terrault, MD, asserted at the Gastroenterology Updates, IBD, Liver Disease meeting.

This is not at present guideline-recommended therapy. Current American Association for the Study of Liver Disease/Infectious Diseases Society of America guidance states that while there is emerging data to support treatment of acute hepatitis C, the evidence isn’t yet sufficiently robust to support a particular regimen or duration. The guidelines currently recommend waiting 6 months to see if the acute infection resolves spontaneously, as happens in a minority of cases, or becomes chronic, at which point it becomes guideline-directed treatment time. But Dr. Terrault believes persuasive evidence to back treatment of acute hepatitis C infection (HCV) is forthcoming, and she noted that the guidelines leave the door ajar by stating, “There are instances wherein a clinician may decide that the benefits of early treatment outweigh waiting for possible spontaneous clearance.”

Dr. Norah Terrault of UCSF Bruce Jancin/MDedge News

Dr. Norah Terrault

Dr. Terrault said she interprets that to mean, “The guideline leaves it open to us,” and she personally treats acute HCV “very frequently.” In addition to describing when and how, she highlighted several other special populations for which emerging treatment data point to major clinical benefit of acute HCV treatment coupled with excellent safety, including patients with end-stage renal disease, liver transplant recipients, and injectable drug users.

Treatment of acute HCV

Dr. Terrault deems treatment of acute HCV warranted in circumstances in which there is significant danger of transmission from the acutely infected individual to others. For example, health care providers with a needlestick HCV infection, injecting drug users, and men with acute HCV/HIV coinfection. She also treats acute HCV in patients with underlying chronic liver disease.

“Clearly, I wouldn’t want those individuals to have any worsening of their liver function, so I would treat them acutely,” explained Dr. Terrault, professor of medicine and director of the Viral Hepatitis Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

She cited as particularly impressive the results of the SWIFT-C trial presented by Suzanna Naggie, MD, of Duke University, Durham, N.C., at the 2017 AASLD annual meeting. In this modest-size, National Institutes of Health–sponsored, multicenter study of HIV-infected men with acute HCV coinfection, the sustained viral response (SVR) rate with 8 weeks of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni) was 100%, regardless of their baseline HCV RNA level.

“I think this is remarkable. They cleared virus quite late and yet they went on to achieve HCV eradication. It highlights how little we really know about the treatment of individuals in this phase and that relying on HCV RNA levels may not tell the whole story. I think this is important data to suggest maybe when we treat acute hepatitis C we can use a shorter duration of treatment for that population. There are also other small studies testing 8 weeks of treatment in non–HIV-infected individuals with acute hepatitis C in which they also showed very high SVR rates,” the hepatologist said.

Copanelist Steven L. Flamm, MD, said that when he encounters a patient with acute HCV he, too, is prepared to offer treatment – he finds the available supporting evidence sufficiently compelling – but he often encounters a problem.

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