From the UCL Institute for Liver & Digestive Health, Division of Medicine, University College London, London NW3 2PF, UK.
The availability of the direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) boceprevir and telaprevir provides improved treatment outcomes for many patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1. However, HCV infection must first be identified before a decision on treatment can be made and currently many patients remain unaware that they have the virus. Given the lack of prompt diagnosis, disease severity should be determined as a baseline reference for treatment, and novel non-invasive techniques for evaluating fibrosis are now available. For patients receiving a DAA regimen, response-guided therapy based on the detection, absence or level of HCV RNA at specified time points is required to achieve an optimal treatment outcome. Knowledge of the test used to measure HCV RNA and its analytical sensitivity, as well as how to interpret the results correctly, are therefore required to administer therapy appropriately. Furthermore, effective treatment management includes appropriate handling of side effects. This increased complexity associated with DAA regimens has resulted in confusion over many aspects of care, including treatment monitoring, viral load result interpretation and the optimal duration of therapy. These issues are discussed here in addition to the benefits of referring patients infected with HCV to a specialist centre.