Update on the management and treatment of hepatitis C virus infection: recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs Hepatitis C Resource Center Program and the National Hepatitis C Program Office.
Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection affects approximately 1.3 % of the United States population and 4 % of veterans who use Department of Veterans Affairs medical services. Chronic HCV is the primary cause of cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and end-stage liver disease requiring liver transplantation in the United States. Management of chronic HCV is aimed at halting disease progression, preventing cirrhosis decompensation, reducing the risk of HCC, and treating extrahepatic complications of the infection. As part of a comprehensive HCV management strategy, peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, along with the addition of a hepatitis C protease inhibitor therapy for many genotype 1-infected patients, are the current standard of care. Antiviral therapy should be provided to those individuals who are clinically stable, have moderate liver disease or compensated cirrhosis, and are motivated to pursue therapy. Many patients have comorbid medical and psychiatric conditions, which may affect their adherence to antiviral therapy or worsen while on antiviral therapy. To optimally manage hepatitis C and associated comorbidities, patients benefit from multidisciplinary teams that can provide HCV-specific care and treatment. Sustained virologic response is associated with "cure" of chronic HCV, and results in improved liver disease outcomes and prolonged survival.