VIENNA – In patients with compensated cirrhosis infected with genotype 3 hepatitis C virus, adding ribavirin to a usual antiviral regimen of sofosbuvir and velpatasvir significantly boosted the rate of sustained virologic response in a review of more than 14,000 English residents entered in a national registry starting in 2017.
With ribavirin added to a sofosbuvir plus velpatasvir regimen for 12 weeks of treatment, the three-drug combination produced a 98% rate of sustained virologic response after 12 weeks (SVR12) in 196 treated patients, Kate Drysdale, MBBCh, said at the meeting sponsored by the European Association for the Study of the Liver. In contrast, 218 compensated cirrhosis patients who received a 12-week regimen of sofosbuvir plus velpatasvir (Epclusa) but without ribavirin had an SVR12 rate of just under 92%, a statistically significant difference, compared with the rate among patients who also received ribavirin, said Dr. Drysdale, a gastroenterologist at Bart’s Health and Queen Mary University of London. The SVR12 rate among 167 compensated cirrhotic patients treated for 12 weeks with the combination of glecaprevir plus pibrentasvir (Mavyret) was 96%, and not statistically different from the patients who received three drugs including ribavirin. The sofosbuvir, velpatasvir, ribavirin combination also outperformed the combination of sofosbuvir plus daclatasvir (Daklinza) and ribavirin, which produced an SVR12 of 92% in 868 patients. The SVR12 rate is the percentage of patients with undetectable hepatitis C virus (HCV) 12 or more weeks after the end of treatment.
Dr. Drysdale cautioned that the data have not yet been put through a multivariate analysis, but the results so far provide “a strong indication that ribavirin may not be as insignificant” as many have recently presumed. “Ribavirin has been set aside because it was thought not to add to the SVR12, but if patients get only one go at treatment, we must be sure their first treatment is the best one,” Dr. Drysdale said in an interview. If ribavirin can be shown to make a significant contribution to treatment efficacy “then we should think more widely about using it when patients tolerate it.”
The analysis included too few patients with either current decompensated cirrhosis or a history of decompensated cirrhosis to make any statistically meaningful comparisons of the treatment subgroups among these patients. And among patients with genotype 3 HCV infection and without cirrhosis, none of the treatments used in practice showed any statistically significant differences in the SVR12 rates they produced. Among patients without cirrhosis the most commonly used regimens by far were an 8-week course of glecaprevir plus pibrentasvir in 731 patients or a 12-week course of sofosbuvir plus velpatasvir in 1,184 patients. Both regimens had SVR12 rates in noncirrhotic patients of 97%, regardless of whether patients had no, mild, or moderate liver fibrosis.
The study used data collected in an English national registry of HCV-infected patients treated with direct-acting antiviral drugs starting in 2017. Dr. Drysdale and her associates narrowed down the total database of more than 37,000 English adults who received some HCV therapy during the period to 14,603 who received a complete, valid regimen and had follow-up SVR12 information available. The overall SVR12 rate among all these patients was 95.59%, and among the patients infected by genotype 3 virus the SVR12 rate was 95.03%. Dr. Drysdale’s analysis focused primarily on the roughly one-third of patients in the study group infected with genotype 3 HCV, the genotype that historically has presented unique treatment challenges ().
Another finding Dr. Drysdale reported was that as liver disease severity worsened from no fibrosis to mild or moderate fibrosis, and then to compensated cirrhosis or decompensation, the SVR12 rate steadily diminished. Among genotype 3 patients, the SVR12 rate fell from about 97% among patients without any fibrosis to about 87% among those with decompensated cirrhosis. Although this observation had been made before, this finding in such a large number of treated patients adds significant new evidence to support this pattern. It also adds further support to the idea of screening for HCV infection among higher-risk, asymptomatic people to optimize their prospects for virus eradication with treatment.
“If patients get much better treatment outcomes before they become cirrhotic then we should try to find these HCV-infected people before they develop symptoms,” Dr. Drysdale said.
Dr. Drysdale reported no disclosures.
SOURCE: Drysdale K et al. .