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Review
, 43 (2 Suppl 1), S207-20

Therapy of Hepatitis C: From Empiricism to Eradication

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Review

Therapy of Hepatitis C: From Empiricism to Eradication

Jean-Michel Pawlotsky. Hepatology.

Abstract

The complications of chronic hepatitis C virus infection can be prevented by antiviral therapy. The initial choice of interferon alfa and, subsequently, ribavirin as potential treatments for chronic hepatitis C was empirical. Nevertheless, the combination of pegylated interferon alfa and ribavirin has become the standard treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Since the advent of interferon-based therapy, enormous progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms of treatment efficacy and failure, and in everyday patient management. The principal advances are: a better understanding of hepatitis C virus steady-state kinetics and the antiviral mechanisms of interferon and ribavirin; easier treatment decisions thanks to novel assays to assess liver disease severity and the virological characteristics of infection; a better use of virological tests to tailor therapy; a better management of adverse effects; a better understanding of virological treatment failure; and a better management of "special" populations, including patients with decompensated cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease, liver transplant recipients, hemodialysis patients and renal transplant recipients, human immunodeficiency virus-coinfected patients, intravenous drug users and patients on opiate replacement therapy, or virological non responders to previous therapies. Steady-state HCV kinetics offers several potential targets for new drugs. These targets should ideally be hit simultaneously in order to achieve viral eradication within a reasonable time frame. Future drugs for HCV infection will belong to four main categories, including new interferons, alternatives to ribavirin, specific HCV inhibitors, and immune modulators. New treatments and vaccines might make it possible to eradicate HCV in the future.

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