Adverse events (AEs) related to treatment with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) may persist after treatment in a significant number of patients with chronic hepatitis C, according to results from a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Clinicians and patients should be aware of this possibility.
“This real-life study is to the best of our knowledge the first to examine the rate of AEs in patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype (GT) 1 infection, randomized to one of two different DAA regimens in a real-world setting,” noted these authors, led by Christina Sølund, MD, PhD, Department of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Research Centre, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, Denmark.
Recently, the development of DAA agents has revolutionized the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, which is estimated to affect more than 70 million people worldwide. Before the advent of DAAs, the standard of care for these patients consisted of treatment with pegylated-interferon and ribavirin (RBV), lasting for 24 to 48 weeks, which not only had significantly lower cure rates and tolerability, but also carried a high incidence of severe AEs.
Now in their second iteration, DAAs have changed the playing field in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C by directly targeting the proteins responsible for viral replication. Improved sustained virologic responses (SVR) of 90% or more and good tolerability and efficacy in patients who have historically been difficult to treat—such as those with liver cirrhosis, liver transplantation, or previous treatment failures—have characterized the second-generation DAAs.
Few studies, however, have compared different DAA regimens. For this reason, Dr. Sølund and colleagues conducted their investigation. They included 96 patients with chronic hepatitis C with either GT1 or GT3, who were randomized to two different treatment arms. The first was comprised of 72 patients infected with GT1, who were treated for 12 weeks with ledipasvir/sofosbuvir/RBV vs paritaprevir/ombitasvir/ritonavir/dasabuvir/RBV. The second group consisted of 24 patients infected with GT3, who were treated with daclatasvir/sofosbuvir/RBV for 12 weeks vs a 24-week course of sofosbuvir/RBV.
Unfortunately, due to a change in national treatment guidelines, the GT3 treatment arm was prematurely terminated. Therefore, efficacy data are available from both GT3 and GT1 patients, but the incidence of AEs is available only for GT1 patients.
Cure was achieved by 97% of GT1 patients and 83% of GT3 patients, with SVR at 12 months. Virologic failure occurred in only one G3 patient.
Adverse events occurred in 97% of GT1 patients with the most common being anemia, fatigue, and headache.
“We found no statistically significant difference in AEs, neither between treatment groups nor in relation to anemia or cirrhosis. The overall rate of AEs was comparable to other real-world studies, but the frequency of the most common AEs, such as anemia (78%), fatigue (74%), headache (74%), pruritus/eczema (46%), and heartburn/abdominal discomfort (38%), was higher in our study,” they added.
Only 3% of GT1 patients discontinued treatment due to AEs. Notably, 45% of patients with AEs thought to be related to a DAA regimen still manifested the AEs at 4 weeks after treatment. At 12 weeks this was still the case in 11% of patients.
“We consider this an important finding that can be used when informing the patient about AEs that might be caused by the DAA regimen, despite the number of patients included in our study being relatively small,” noted the authors. “The low discontinuation rate reflects that AEs possibly induced by DAA treatment are rarely treatment limiting, even when DAA treatment is given in combination with RBV,” they concluded.
This study received support from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen and from Hvidovre Hospital Research Foundation, the Department of Infectious Diseases, Copenhagen University Hospital, Hvidovre, the Capital Region of Denmark’s Research Foundation, the Innovation Fund Denmark project 060-2009-3, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and the Danish Research Council.