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Hepatitis C Therapy May Reduce Need for Liver Transplants

If findings are confirmed, treatment could cut number of patients on waiting lists, researchers say

THURSDAY, April 14, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with antiviral drugs may reduce the need for a liver transplant for people with severe liver damage and hepatitis C, a new study suggests.

This study included 103 liver transplant candidates in Europe with severe liver damage and hepatitis C. They were treated with direct-acting antiviral drug combinations used to treat and cure people with hepatitis C.

Thirty-five percent of the patients improved to the point where they were no longer in urgent need of a liver transplant. And 20 percent got so much better that they no longer needed a transplant, researchers found.

Currently, more than 15,000 people in the United States are on the liver transplant waiting list. About 16 percent will die before receiving a new liver. And roughly 30 percent of adults on the liver transplant waiting list have severe liver damage and hepatitis C, the researchers said.

The study was to be presented Thursday at the International Liver Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"The results of the study are very encouraging, but a word of caution is to be mentioned since it is presently unknown how long the clinical improvement will last," study author Dr. Luca Belli said in an International Liver Congress news release. Belli is from the gastroenterology and hepatology liver unit at Niguarda Hospital in Milan, Italy.

Belli said international studies need to be done to see how patients taken off the transplant list fare. He said it's critical to assess the long-term risk of death, development of liver cancer and further deterioration of the liver.

"These results show notable improvements in the outlook for some of these patients," Laurent Castera, secretary general of the European Association for the Study of the Liver, said in the news release.

"Treating these patients with direct-acting antiviral therapy could result in those with a more pressing need for a liver transplant receiving the donation they need, potentially reducing the number of deaths that occur in patients on the waiting list," Castera added.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on hepatitis C.

SOURCE: International Liver Congress, news release, April 14, 2016

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