Division of Nephrology and Dialysis, Maggiore Hospital, IRCCS Foundation, Milano, Italy Division of Hepatology, School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA.
Summary. The efficacy and safety of antiviral therapy in patients with acute hepatitis C on long-term dialysis remains unclear, although a number of small clinical studies have been published addressing this issue. We evaluated the efficacy and safety of interferon therapy in chronic dialysis patients with acute hepatitis C by performing a systematic review of the literature with a meta-analysis of clinical studies. The primary outcome was sustained virological response (SVR, as a measure of efficacy); the secondary outcome was dropout rate (as a measure of tolerability). We used the random effects model of DerSimonian and Laird, with heterogeneity and sensitivity analyses. We identified eight clinical studies (173 unique patients), three (37.5%) being controlled clinical trials (CCTs). Among CCTs, the viral response was much more common in study (patients on antiviral therapy) than control (patients who did not receive therapy) groups; the pooled odds ratio of SVR being 27.06, 95% Confidence Intervals (95% CI), 9.26; 79.1 (P =0.00001). No difference in the dropout rate between study and control patients was shown, odds ratio = 0.920 (95% CI, 0.367; 1.92), NS. Pooling all study results (n = 8 studies) demonstrated that the summary estimate for SVR and dropout rate was 58% (95% CI, 38; 77) and 9% (95% CI, 4; 14), respectively. The most frequent side-effects requiring interruption of the treatment were flu-like symptoms (n = 4, 18%), followed by haematological changes and loss to follow-up. A strong relationship between increasing age and reported dropout rate was recognized (P = 0.001). The studies were heterogeneous with regard to SVR but not to dropout rate. Our meta-analysis of CCTs showed that the viral response after antiviral therapy was more common than the spontaneous viral clearance in dialysis patients with acute hepatitis C. Pooled analysis demonstrated that IFN-based therapy of acute hepatitis C in dialysis populations gives SVR in around one half of patients. These results support IFN-based therapy for acute hepatitis C in patients on maintenance dialysis.