Urgency to treat patients with chronic hepatitis C in Asia
Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) infection poses a global healthcare burden, being associated with serious complications if untreated. The prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is highest in areas of Central, South, and East Asia; over 50% of HCV patients worldwide live in the region, where HCV genotypes 1b, 2, 3, and 6 are the most prevalent. Treatment outcomes for chronic hepatitis C vary by ethnicity, and Asian patients achieve higher sustained virologic response rates following interferon (IFN)-based therapy than non-Asians. However, low efficacy, poor safety profile, and subcutaneous administration limit the use of IFN-based therapies. Superior virologic outcomes have been observed with different classes of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) alone or in combination, and several all-oral DAA regimens are available in Asia. These regimens have shown excellent efficacy and favorable tolerability in clinical trials, yet there is a need for further studies of DAAs in a real world context, particularly in Asia. Furthermore, IFN-free treatment may not be accessible for many patients in the region, and IFN-based regimens remain an option in some countries. There is a need to improve current clinical practices for HCV management in Asia, including effective screening, disease awareness, and prevention programs, and to further understand the cost-effectiveness of IFN-free regimens. The evolution of potent treatments makes HCV eradication a possibility that should be available to all patients. However, access to these therapies in Asian countries has been slow, primarily because of economic barriers that continue to present a hurdle to optimal treatment.