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October 1, 2004

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What Is the Best Treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C?

By JF Dillon, MD

The treatment of hepatitis C is expensive, difficult and arduous from the patient’s perspective. It is similarly difficult for the clinician to decide who and when to treat.

If hepatitis C is viewed from the liver’s perspective, we need only treat those patients who will develop the complications of chronic liver disease within their lifetimes. If we take a more holistic approach, then we have to consider the implications of being a carrier of a potentially transmissible blood borne virus on the patient themselves, their relationships, their families and their sense of well-being.

There is now evidence of the large impact HCV has on quality of life and we have to consider extra hepatic manifestations of hepatitis C infection, possibly including the syndrome of brain fog recently described.

An additional factor that has to be considered in the decision to treat is whether patients perceive hepatitis C as a significant problem for themselves.

For some patients, who have chaotic live styles, it is extremely difficult to get them to access healthcare. To then undergo the rigors and tribulations of hepatitis C therapy that is posing no current problem is unlikely to succeed.

However, failure to engage these patients with therapy will lead to a significant proportion of them presenting with serious complications of chronic liver disease, with its attendant mortality, morbidity and cost.

Underlying all these considerations is the tension between the costs of therapy and the benefits of therapy.

The author concludes, Good arguments can be made in terms of cost-effectiveness for treating patients with a high likelihood of progressing to chronic liver disease and its complications. These arguments become much less persuasive when all patients are concerned.

Department of Digestive Diseases and Clinical Nutrition, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, UK.

09/20/04
Reference
J F Dillon. What is the best treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C? Journal of Viral Hepatitis 11 Suppl 1:23-27. September 2004.

 

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