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AIDS Rev. 2007 Apr-Jun;9(2):99-113.

Update on the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in HIV-infected patients.

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  • 1Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Carlos III, Madrid, Spain. vsoriano@dragonet.es


Liver disease is currently the second leading cause of death in HIV-infected persons in Western countries. Hepatitis C virus infection accounts for the majority of cases of hepatic illness in this population. Although great progress has been made in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in HIV-positive patients, many challenges still remain unsolved. The combination of pegylated interferon plus ribavirin is the current treatment of choice in hepatitis C virus/HIV-coinfected patients, regardless of hepatitis C virus genotype. However, the limited efficacy of this therapy in the HIV setting makes necessary the development of new strategies and/or drugs for the treatment of hepatitis C infection. Several anti-hepatitis C virus compounds are currently under investigation, although most are still in the early stages of clinical development. There is a relatively large group of patients who will be unable to be treated with the current hepatitis C virus medication based on interferon, mainly due to contraindications such as serious neuropsychiatric or cardiovascular history. However, for those without contraindications, treatment should be provided with no restrictions at the start (e.g. asking unnecessarily for a liver biopsy), and reassessed at weeks 4 and 12, considering virologic responses. Treatment should only be continued in early virologic responders. The use of standard doses of ribavirin (1000-1200 mg/day) and for at least 12 months seems crucial to maximize the effect of current hepatitis C treatment in the HIV setting, while no further benefit seems to derive from using higher than recommended pegylated interferon dosages. In patients with rapid virologic response (undetectable viremia at week 4) to anti-hepatitis C therapy, shorter periods of therapy (24 weeks) may be advisable in hepatitis C genotypes 2 and 3. Finally, adequate selection of candidates and careful selection of concomitant antiretroviral medications must be encouraged. Patients with low CD4 percentages (< 15%) should be deferred for treatment and HAART prioritized in order to improve CD4 counts. When possible, nucleoside analogs such as zidovudine, stavudine, and abacavir should be replaced by others having no deleterious interactions with ribavirin (e.g. tenofovir, lamivudine, or emtricitabine). Didanosine should never be coadministered with ribavirin due to potential life-threatening complications.

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