Background: Multiple treatments are available for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
Purpose: To compare benefits and harms of antiviral regimens for chronic HCV infection in treatment-naive adults.
Data Sources: English-language literature from MEDLINE (1947 to August 2012), the Cochrane Library Database, Embase, Scopus, PsychINFO, and clinical trial registries.
Study Selection: Randomized trials of antiviral treatments and cohort studies examining associations between sustained virologic response (SVR) after therapy and clinical outcomes.
Data Extraction: Several investigators abstracted study details and quality by using predefined criteria.
Data Synthesis: No trial evaluated effectiveness of treatment on long-term clinical outcomes. Dual therapy with pegylated interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin was associated with a lower likelihood of SVR than was pegylated interferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin (absolute difference, 8 percentage points [95% CI, 3 to 14 percentage points]) on the basis of 7 poor- to fair-quality trials. For genotype 2 or 3 infection, dual therapy for 12 to 16 weeks was associated with a lower likelihood of SVR than was therapy for 24 weeks, and lower doses of pegylated interferon alfa-2b were less effective than standard doses (2 to 4 fair-quality trials). For genotype 1 infection, fair-quality trials found that triple therapy with pegylated interferon, ribavirin, and either boceprevir (2 trials) or telaprevir (4 trials) was associated with a higher likelihood of SVR than was dual therapy (absolute difference, 22 to 31 percentage points). Compared with dual therapy, boceprevir triple therapy increased risk for hematologic adverse events and telaprevir triple therapy increased risk for anemia and rash. A large well-designed cohort study and 18 smaller cohort studies found that an SVR after antiviral therapy was associated with lower risk for all-cause mortality than was no SVR.
Limitations: Trials involved highly selected populations. Observational studies did not always adequately control for confounders.
Conclusion: SVR rates for genotype 1 infection are higher with triple therapy that includes a protease inhibitor than with standard dual therapy. An SVR after antiviral therapy appears associated with improved clinical outcomes.
Primary Funding Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.