Hepatitis C Treatment Works in HIV Patients
Treating Hepatitis C Doesn't Worsen HIV Infection, Studies Show
July 28, 2004 -- People infected with both hepatitis C and HIV
can be safely and effectively treated with current hepatitis C therapies
without compromising their HIV treatment, according to a new study.
Researchers say about a third of HIV-positive people are also
infected with the hepatitis C virus, and infection with both viruses in people
receiving antiviral therapy has been associated with an increased risk of
complications and death. Hepatitis C infection may also affect the course and
management of HIV infection, with some studies suggesting that certain types of
hepatitis C are associated with more rapid progression to AIDS or death.
But two studies published in this week's New England Journal
of Medicine show that a substantial proportion of people infected with both
viruses can be safety and successfully treated with the interferon and
antiviral drugs currently used to treat chronic hepatitis C alone.
Hepatitis C Treatment Works in People With HIV
Interferons are proteins that are released in the body in
response to viral infections. Interferon drugs are used to help the body fight
viruses, such as hepatitis C, and regulate the immune system. Ribavirin is an
antiviral drug used in the treatment of hepatitis C and other infections, but
the way the drug works is unknown.
In the studies, researchers compared the effectiveness and
safety of different interferon drugs with and without ribavirin in treating
more than 900 people infected with hepatitis C who were HIV positive.
The studies showed that the success rate of treatment with the
interferon drug Pegasys plus ribavirin was higher than with other interferon
drugs alone or in combination with ribavirin. About 40% of patients treated
with this combination had a sustained response to treatment, compared with 12%
treated with another interferon drug plus ribavirin and 20% with Pegasys alone.
A sustained response was defined as finding no hepatitis C virus in the blood
24 weeks after treatment.
Researchers found that success rates varied according to the
type of hepatitis C virus the patient was infected with. Those with genotypes 2
or 3 were about twice as likely to have a sustained response to treatment
compared with those infected with genotype 1.
The study also showed that levels of HIV in the blood did not
increase during hepatitis C treatment and actually decreased in some
In a related perspective in the same journal, Jean-Michel
Pawlotsky, MD, PhD, of the University of Paris XII in CrÃ©teil, France, says
these studies show that many people infected with both HIV and hepatitis C can
be successfully treated.
"These results, together with the poor prognosis for
HIV-positive patients with [hepatitis C] infection, justify broad use of
antiviral therapy in the treatment of coinfected patients," writes