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Hepatitis C Treatment Effective in Injection Drug Users

Study finds treatment effective even among patients co-infected with HIV

MONDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment of recent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is effective in injection drug users, even those co-infected with HIV, according to a study in the January issue of Gastroenterology.

Gregory J. Dore, M.D., from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues analyzed data from a clinical trial of 109 patients recently infected with HCV treated with pegylated interferon-alfa-2a (74 patients) or pegylated interferon-alfa-2a plus ribavirin if co-infected with HIV (35 patients). Of these, 79 percent had injected drugs in the past six months.

The researchers found that, in patients infected with HCV only, the sustained virologic response rate was 55 percent by intention-to-treat analysis and 72 percent by per-protocol analysis. In patients co-infected with HIV, the response rate was 74 percent by intention-to-treat analysis and 75 percent by per-protocol analysis. After accounting for possible confounding factors, decreased social functioning and current opiate pharmacotherapy were associated with lower responses. Adherence was associated with higher response rates (63 versus 29 percent).

"This study found that treatment for recent HCV infection is effective in people whose infection was acquired through injection drug use, even in those with HIV co-infection," Dore and colleagues conclude. "Strategies to engage socially marginalized individuals and increase adherence should improve treatment outcomes in this population."

Several authors reported financial, consulting, or advisory relationships with pharmaceutical companies.

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