BACKGROUND: Chronic hepatitis C patients with coexisting heart disease are often denied antiviral treatment due to safety concerns. However, this is not evidence-based.
AIMS: To evaluate safety and efficacy of pegylated interferon and ribavirin in chronic hepatitis C patients with heart disease.
METHODS: Patients with overt heart disease (ischaemic heart disease, prior mechanical heart valve replacement, chronic arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy) and chronic hepatitis C were treated with standard pegylated interferon/ribavirin doses for standard duration. Cardiovascular safety was monitored by electrocardiography, echocardiography and measurement of troponin and B-type natriuretic peptide.
RESULTS: Twenty-three patients (65.2% male, median age 57 years, 47.8% genotype 1) were treated. Three patients (13%) suspended treatment prematurely; 52% obtained sustained virological response, 39% relapsed, 9% were non-responders. No serious adverse event was observed. Post-treatment clinical examination, electrocardiography and echocardiography did not show any sign of progression of the pre-existing heart disease.
CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with pegylated interferon/ribavirin may be safely offered to carefully selected chronic hepatitis C patients with coexisting, clinically significant heart disease. In these patients, the outcome of antiviral treatment overlaps that observed in other patient subgroups.