Surprisingly small effect of antiviral treatment in patients with hepatitis C

Ann Intern Med. 2002 Feb 19;136(4):288-92. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-136-4-200202190-00008.


Background: The effect and applicability of interferon-based antiviral therapies in the general population of persons with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are unknown.

Objective: To determine the applicability and usefulness of anti-viral therapy in a metropolitan clinic population.

Design: Retrospective case series of consecutively referred patients.

Setting: A teaching county hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

Patients: 327 patients referred to a liver clinic after a positive result for antibody against HCV on enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).

Measurements: Treatment rates; reasons for nontreatment.

Results: 34 patients had no detectable HCV RNA. Of the remaining 293 patients, 72% were not treated for the following reasons: 37% did not adhere to evaluation procedures, 34% had medical or psychiatric contraindications, 13% had ongoing substance or alcohol abuse, 11% preferred no treatment, and 5% had normal liver enzyme levels. Only 83 patients (28%) were treated; 13% had a sustained viral response.

Conclusion: Most patients with HCV infection are not candidates for interferon-based therapies; alternative interventions should be sought for these patients.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferons / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Refusal


  • Antiviral Agents
  • RNA, Viral
  • Interferons