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Background & objectives: In the past, patients with haemoglobinopathies were at high risk for acquiring hepatitis C virus (HCV) due to multiple transfusions before HCV screening. In these patients the coexistence of haemochromatosis and chronic hepatitis C (CHC) often leads to more severe liver disease. We assessed the HCV prevalence, clinical characteristics and outcome in this setting with particular attention to the response to treatment including therapies with the new direct acting antivirals (DAAs).
Methods: The medical records of 81 consecutive patients followed the last 15 years were reviewed retrospectively.
Results: 43/81 (53%) patients were anti-HCV positive including 31/43 (72.1%) with CHC (HCV-RNA positive; age 25±7 years; 45.2% with genotype 1b; 19.4% cirrhotics; baseline ferritin 887 ng/ml; range: 81-10.820). Thirty patients received IFN-based therapy with or without ribavirin with sustained virological response (SVR) in 14/30 (46.7%). Eleven patients (9 non-responders to IFN-based therapies, 1 relapser and 1 naïve) received treatment with DAAs (SVR: 100%). 3/11 patients increased their transfusion needs while 1/11 reported mild arthralgias. No drug-drug interactions between DAAs and chelation agents were observed as attested by the stability of ferritin levels during treatment.
Conclusions: More than 1/3 of patients with haemoglobinopathies suffered from CHC. Response rates to antiviral treatment seem to be similar to other patients with CHC, while treatment with DAAs was very effective and safe even in difficult to treat patients (most null responders with severe fibrosis) suggesting that this group of HCV patients should no longer be regarded as a difficult to treat.
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