NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Sustained viral response (SVR) to hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment is associated with a reduction in liver and non-liver complications in patients with compensated cirrhosis, researchers from France report.
"The achievement of HCV eradication strikingly decreases the risks of liver-related complications, a benefit that was up to now only suggested by retrospective studies," Dr. Pierre Nahon from Hôpital Jean Verdier in Bondy, France, told Reuters Health by email.
"These benefits extend beyond liver-related complications, in particular for cardiovascular disease and MACE (major adverse cardiovascular events) as well as bacterial infection," he said. "These positive effects are translated into survival benefits, whether considering liver-related or extra-hepatic mortality."
Dr. Nahon and colleagues from 35 clinical centers in France evaluated the impact of SVR in 1,671 patients, 1,323 of whom had HCV-related compensated cirrhosis.
After a median follow-up of 58.2 months, 59.5% of patients had a negative viral load, including 668 patients (51.7%) with SVR and 119 HCV-negative patients who were still undergoing antiviral treatment.
Male gender, absence of esophageal varices, and absence of diabetes were independent predictive factors for SVR, the researchers report in Gastroenterology, online the September 15.
SVR was associated with a significantly decreased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC; hazard ratio, 0.29) and mortality among patients who had HCC at baseline.
Patients who achieved SVR were also 74% less likely to develop liver decompensation during follow-up.
Extrahepatic events - including bacterial infections and cardiovascular events - were less than half as common among patients who achieved SVR than among others, but SVR had no apparent effect on the occurrence of extrahepatic malignancies.
SVR independently predicted a lower risk of hepatic and extrahepatic complications, a finding that was confirmed by a supporting propensity-matching analysis.
SVR was a protective factor for all-cause mortality (HR, 0.27; p<0.001), as well as a predictive factor for survival without liver-related or extrahepatic deaths.
"The present report, with the advantage of a longer follow-up and by studying virological clearance at endpoint as a time-dependent covariate after interferon- or direct-acting antivirals (DAA)-based regimen, now clearly shows that achieving SVR in HCV-infected cirrhotic patients leads to an improved prognosis," the researchers conclude.
"Overall, the present data are able to specifically highlight the independent influence of SVR on the incidence of liver complications, including HCC and mortality and interestingly a positive impact on the occurrence of extrahepatic manifestations," they add.
"However," the team notes, "the achievement of SVR in DAA-treated patients is too recent to draw any definite conclusion on this point, which will require a longer follow-up of the CirVir cohort to be adequately addressed."
"Although HCV eradication is achievable in almost all patients, physicians must be aware of the persisting risk of HCC occurrence in cirrhotic patients despite viral clearance, in particular in case of associated metabolic syndrome," Dr. Nahon cautioned. "These patients must be maintained in liver cancer surveillance programs."
The study did not have commercial funding. Several authors, including Dr. Nahon, reported financial ties to Gilead Sciences and other companies selling drugs for hepatitis C.