National Centre in HIV Social Research , The University of New South Wales , Sydney , Australia.
Research indicates that patients treated with interferon-based regimens can experience persistent neurotoxicity after treatment ceases and new symptoms attributable to the regimens can emerge post-treatment. To explore post-hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment outcomes, in-depth interviews were conducted with a self-selected sample of people from two Australian states who had completed an interferon-based regimen at least 24-weeks prior to being interviewed. Participants comprised almost equal numbers of men and women aged from 26 to 57 years, who were treated for HCV genotypes 1 through to 4, and included treatment responders, non-responders and those who had relapsed after treatment. Of 27 participants who volunteered to be part of this study, 25 reported persistent physical and psychological side-effects after treatment. Participants perceived a direct causal link between the treatment regimen and their ongoing symptoms. Reportedly, recovery from treatment was inhibited by an absence of a follow-up protocol that identified and addressed patients' post-treatment needs, including medical care for persistent side-effects, referral, and information and advice about lifestyle issues. Although the study's sample was not representative of all people treated for HCV, it is likely that persistent side-effects and their impact can affect other patients following completion of HCV treatments. Further prospective studies of HCV treatment outcomes are needed. In the meantime, the systematic implementation of a follow-up protocol in liver clinics might expedite recovery in patients who experience ongoing adverse health.