Assessing the Safety of Direct-Acting Antiviral Agents for Hepatitis C

JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jun 5;2(6):e194765. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.4765.


Importance: Recent reports based on the US Food and Drug Administration's voluntary Adverse Events Reporting System raised questions about the safety of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for treatment of the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Objective: To assess the rates of adverse events in patients with HCV infection exposed to DAAs compared with those not exposed.

Design, setting, and participants: A retrospective cohort study calculated unadjusted adverse event rates for exposed vs unexposed time, using claims and clinical data from 3 health systems between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2017. Of 82 419 eligible adults, a total of 33 808 who met eligibility criteria (age, 18-88 years; HCV quantitative result or genotype from 2012 or later; continuously enrolled; naive to DAA treatment at baseline) were included. Marginal structural modeling methods were used to adjust time-to-event analyses for characteristics that are associated with both outcomes and probability of treatment.

Interventions or exposures: Exposure to DAAs compared with no DAA exposure.

Main outcomes and measures: Death, multiple organ failure, liver cancer, hepatic decompensation, acute-on-chronic liver event, acute myocardial infarction, ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, arrhythmia, acute kidney failure, nonliver cancer, hepatitis B reactivation, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits.

Results: Of the 33 808 patients who met all inclusion criteria, 20 899 (61.8%) were men; mean (SD) age was 57.2 (10.6) years. In unadjusted analyses, DAA exposure was associated with significantly lower rates of death (10.7 vs 33.7 events per 1000 person-years; rate ratio [RR], 0.32, 95% CI, 0.25-0.40). Seven other unadjusted adverse clinical events ratios were below 70% and statistically significant favoring the DAA group: multiple organ failure (RR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.44-0.72), liver cancer (RR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.48-0.80), hepatic decompensation (RR, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.52-0.73), acute-on-chronic liver event (RR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.56-0.84), acute myocardial infarction (RR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.42-0.97), ischemic stroke (RR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.42-0.95), and hemorrhagic stroke (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.25-0.89); none favored the non-DAA group. In the marginal structural modeling-adjusted analysis, DAA exposure was associated with statistically significant lower odds of adverse events than non-DAA exposure for death (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.42; 95% CI, 0.30-0.59), multiple organ failure (aOR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.49-0.90), hepatic decompensation (aOR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.49-0.76), acute-on-chronic liver event (aOR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.56-0.91), and arrhythmia (aOR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.25-0.88).

Conclusions and relevance: Direct-acting antiviral exposure may not be associated with higher rates of any serious adverse events, including those related to liver, kidney, and cardiovascular systems. Safety concerns based on previous reports did not appear to be supported in this study with more comprehensive data and rigorous statistical methods.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Florida / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / epidemiology
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Safety
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antiviral Agents