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Medical News

Hispanics Respond Poorly to Hepatitis C Treatment

January 16, 2009

Latinos appear to respond less well than whites to the current standard drug therapy for hepatitis C, a new multicenter study indicates. The results are similar to those of a 2006 study that found blacks with hepatitis C also respond less to treatment.

The open-label, nonrandomized, prospective study evaluated 269 Hispanics and 300 non-Hispanic whites with hepatitis C, who received standard doses of peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys) with ribavirin for 48 weeks. Rates of sustained virologic response in patients with HCV genotype 1 were higher among whites than Latinos (49 percent vs. 34 percent).

"There's something different about their [Latinos'] makeup, either genetic or immunological, that makes the virus respond less to the medication," said Dr. Lennox Jeffers, professor of medicine at the University of Miami and a study co-author. "We don't know the exact mechanism."

Jeffers said Latinos have been underrepresented in hepatitis C studies. However, more Latinos are enrolled in new research adding protease inhibitors such as telapravir or bocepravir to standard hepatitis C drug regimens.

Dr. Paul Martin, chief of hepatology at the University of Miami Medical School and another study co-author, said adding protease inhibitors will increase overall cure rates to 60 percent within two years, and other new drugs are expected to increase cure rates to 70 percent within three to five years. But whether Latinos and blacks will respond to those therapies as well as whites is unknown.

The study, "Peginterferon Alfa-2a and Ribavirin in Latino and Non-Latino Whites with Hepatitis C," was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2009; 360(3):257-267).

Back to other news for January 2009

Adapted from:
Miami Herald
01.14.2009; Fred Tasker

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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