Earlier The Better For Hep C Treatment
First Published: Investigator - June 2009
An international trial involving researchers from Flinders has shown that treating the most common strain of hepatitis C in its early stages may double the chance of a cure.
The trial – involving more than 700 patients from 33 Australian hospitals including Flinders Medical Centre – found that if hepatitis C was treated when there was minimal or no liver damage in the patient, the chances of a cure doubled compared to patients treated in the later stages, when liver damage was more advanced.
‘The findings are important because they confirm that the current standard of care for people living with the most common form of hepatitis C, called genotype 1, is effective,’ Dr Alex Rogers, a consultant gastroenterologist hepatologist based at Flinders Medical Centre said.
More importantly, the findings suggested that cure rates in genotype 1 could be a lot higher than previously thought.
Researchers found that up to seven out of ten people with this form of hepatitis C could be cured if treatment commenced at the early stages of the illness, before any significant liver damage occurred.
Hepatitis C is a virus that causes liver inflammation and liver disease. More than 200,000 Australians have chronic hepatitis C and 10,000 new infections are diagnosed in the nation each year. While there is no vaccination against hepatitis C, treatment in the form of Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin is available.
The aim of the Australian-led international clinical trial was to compare the effectiveness of the two treatment regimens in reducing or clearing the hepatitis C virus in patients infected with HCV genotype 1.
Dr Rogers said the research was positive news for people living with hepatitis C, and hopefully gave people greater incentive to seek treatment.
‘Only a very small percentage of Australians living with chronic hepatitis C are actually receiving treatment, so we hope these findings encourage a greater number of people to seek help.’
Dr Rogers said the risks of failing to seek treatment could be significant: ‘People risk ongoing liver disease and liver failure.’