A study published in The BMJ reveals that individuals who have been successfully treated for hepatitis C infection still face a significantly higher risk of death compared to the general population. The study, conducted by researchers from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland and the British Columbia Center for Disease Control in Canada, analyzed data from over 20,000 patients who were cured of hepatitis C.
The findings indicate that the main drivers of excess deaths in these cured patients are drug-related and liver-related causes. The study emphasizes the need for continued support and follow-up care to fully realize the benefits of a hepatitis C cure.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can lead to severe liver damage if left untreated. In the past, interferon-based therapy was commonly used but often proved ineffective. However, the development of direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) in 2011 significantly improved the cure rate, with over 95% of patients treated with DAAs achieving a virological cure.
Despite the successful cure, questions remained about the long-term prognosis of these patients compared to the general population. To address this, the researchers measured mortality rates in individuals with a hepatitis C cure and compared them to the general population.
Their analysis showed that death rates were considerably higher in cured patients across all disease severity groups and settings, with rates increasing as liver disease severity worsened. The leading causes of death were drug-related, liver failure, and liver cancer.
The study emphasizes the need for establishing robust post-cure follow-up pathways and providing services and interventions to prevent drug and alcohol-related harms. These measures are essential to fully realize the benefits of a hepatitis C cure and reduce mortality rates in cured patients. The findings suggest that ongoing support and monitoring are crucial for patients even after they have successfully cleared the hepatitis C virus.