Review article: optimizing SVR and management of the haematological side effects of peginterferon/ribavirin antiviral therapy for HCV – the role of epoetin, G-CSF and novel agents

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Abstract

Background

Chronic hepatitis C is one of the leading causes for chronic liver disease globally. The past two decades have seen many advances in hepatitis C treatment. Despite these advances, side effects of treatment are common. Haematological complications of treatment can result in treatment cessation and suboptimal results. Recent data have suggested a role for epoetin/granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) in optimizing sustained virological response (SVR).

Aim

To investigate the nature, frequency and management of haematological side effects in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection.

Methods

The terms hepatitis C, hepatitis C virus (HCV), treatment, side effects, interferon, peginterferon, ribavirin, anaemia, haemoglobin, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, haematological, growth factor, erythropoietin and G-CSF were searched on MEDLINE for the period 1991–2009. References from selected articles were also included.

Results

Haematological side effects such as anaemia, neutropenia and thrombocytopenia are frequent in anti-HCV treatment. The off-label use of haematological growth factors is common and effective.

Conclusions

Erythropoietic agents are effective in treating anaemia, preventing ribavirin dose reduction, improving patients' quality of life, but the effect on SVR is not fully elucidated. G-CSF is effective in raising absolute neutrophil count; however, neutropenic HCV-infected patients on combination treatment may not experience increased bacterial infections. Eltrombopag, a new oral thrombopoietin mimetic, may allow combination treatment in patients with thrombocytopenia.

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