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World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Nov 28;19(44):8011-9. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i44.8011.

Addicts with chronic hepatitis C: difficult to reach, manage or treat?

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Barbara Zanini, Federica Benini, Marie Graciella Pigozzi, Alberto Lanzini, Department of Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Gastroenterology Unit, University and Spedali Civili of Brescia, I-25123 Brescia, Italy.



To assess the acceptance, safety and efficacy of care and treatment for chronic hepatitis C (CHC) in drug addicts.


We designed a multidisciplinary, phase IV prospective cohort study. All illicit drug users (IDUs) visited a Territorial Addiction Service (SerT) in the District of Brescia, and hepatitis C antibody (HCVAb) testing positive were offered as part of a standardised hepatologic visit in our Gastroenterology Unit. Patients with confirmed CHC and without medical contraindications were administered peginterferon alfa-2b 1.5 μg/kg per week plus ribavirin (800-1400 mg/d) for 16-48 wk. All IDUs were unselected because of ongoing addiction and read and signed an informed consent form. Virologic responses at weeks 4 and 12 of therapy, at the end of treatment and 24 wk after the end of treatment were the main measures of efficacy. Adherence was estimated according to the 80/80/80 criteria.


From November 2007 to December 2009, 162 HCVAb+ IDUs were identified. Sixty-seven patients (41% of the initial cohort) completed the diagnostic procedure, and CHC was diagnosed in 54 (33% of the total). Forty-nine patients were offered therapy, and 39 agreed (80% of acceptance rate). The prevalent HCV genotype was type 1, and the HCV RNA baseline level was over 5.6 log/mL in 61% of cases. Five patients dropped out, two because of severe adverse events (SAEs) and three without medical need. Twenty-three and 14 patients achieved end of treatment responses (ETRs; 59%) and sustained virologic responses (SVRs; 36%), respectively. Thirty-one patients were fully compliant with the study protocol (80% adherence). The prevalence of host and viral characteristics negatively affecting the treatment response was high: age over 40 years (54%), male gender (85%), overweight body type (36%), previous unsuccessful antiviral therapy (21%), HCV genotype and viral load (60% and 62%, respectively), earlier contact with HBV (40%) and steatosis and fibrosis (44% and 17%, respectively). In a univariate analysis, alcohol intake was associated with a non-response (P = 0.0018, 95%CI: 0.0058-0.4565).


Drug addicts with CHC can be successfully treated in a multidisciplinary setting using standard antiviral combination therapy, despite several "difficult to reach, manage and treat" characteristics.


Addiction; Antiviral therapy; Chronic hepatitis C; Interferon; Multidisciplinary

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