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Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2004 Mar;33(1 Suppl):S25-35.

Role of epoetin alfa in maintaining ribavirin dose.

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Department of Medicine, Liver Center, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 110 Francis Street, Suite 8E, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Current therapy for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is standard interferon (IFN) or pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) in combination with ribavirin (RBV). Hematologic side effects (neutropenia, thrombocytopenia, anemia) are a major reason for dose reduction of anti-HCV therapy. Because treatment adherence and maintenance of IFN or PEG-IFN and RBV doses have been shown to be important in achieving a sustained virologic response, appropriate management of hematologic side effects might play a substantial role in optimizing treatment outcomes. Neutropenia and thrombocytopenia are usually managed by IFN or PEG-IFN dose reduction; the role of hematopoietic growth factors to ameliorate these side effects needs further evaluation, but some studies suggest granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) may be useful in the management of IFN/PEG-IFN-associated neutropenia. Anemia is primarily due to RBV-induced hemolytic anemia, but IFN/PEG-IFN also suppresses bone marrow erythroid precursors. Treatment-induced anemia has usually been managed by RBV dose reduction or discontinuation. However, recent studies suggest that epoetin alfa can increase hemoglobin levels and facilitate maintenance of RBV dosage in patients with chronic hepatitis C who became anemic during standard combination therapy. Results of a randomized, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial suggest that epoetin alfa therapy can maintain RBV dosage, increase hemoglobin levels, and improve quality of life in this population. In patients who have chronic hepatitis C who experience hematologic toxicities during standard therapy, the use of hematopoietic growth factors such as epoetin alfa might have the potential to improve treatment adherence rates and allow optimal doses of IFN or PEG-IFN and RBV to be maintained, thereby leading to improved treatment outcomes.

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