Anaemia is a common complication of antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection that necessitates dose reductions or therapy discontinuation. Administration of erythropoietin (EPO) is an alternative to ribavirin (RBV) dose reduction, but its advantage in terms of sustained virological response (SVR) has not been determined yet. In a systematic way, randomized studies were identified that evaluated the effect of EPO administration vs RBV dose reduction on virological response in patients who developed anaemia during anti-HCV therapy. The random-effects model was employed to run meta-analysis. SVR was set as the end point of interest. Data were abstracted from four studies containing 257 patients who developed anaemia during therapy. One hundred and twenty six subjects underwent RBV dose reduction. Patients who received EPO in response to haemoglobin drop had a significantly higher probability of achieving SVR compared with those who underwent RBV dose reduction because of anaemia (relative risk = 1.83 95% CI; 1.41-2.37). No heterogeneity was observed across study results (I(2) = 0). Publication bias assessment was nonsignificant. Our meta-analysis indicates that administration of EPO in patients who develop anaemia during anti-HCV therapy can considerably enhance SVR. Moreover, no adverse event of EPO administration was reported among included subjects.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.