Chronic infection with the hepatitis B and C virus represents a major health problem worldwide, as it is estimated that roughly 400 and 200 million people respectively, are infected by each virus. By definition, any antiviral therapy that claims to be effective should have as its ultimate efficacy end point an improvement in patients' survival, or at least a reduction in the development rates of liver-related complications. However, this is extremely complicated to prove as the natural course of both viral diseases is extremely slow, requiring decades to evolve in cirrhosis and even more years to lead to liver complications. For this reason, clinicians and health authorities have relied on so called surrogate end points to assess the efficacy of any therapeutic intervention for viral hepatitis. Obviously, this allows for standardization in study designs that ultimately translates into an accelerated time frame for therapeutic drugs as well as healthcare innovations to enter the viral hepatitis clinical practice. However, it also calls for demonstration that surrogate end points in the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis B or C are good and reliable markers of long-term efficacy.
Copyright © 2012 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.