Direct-acting antiviral Therapy Is Safe and Effective in Pediatric Chronic Hepatitis C: The Public Health Perspective

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OBJECTIVES: We assessed the efficacy of decentralized public health services and safety of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) in the treatment of pediatric chronic hepatitis C (CHC) in the Mukh-Mantri Punjab Hepatitis C Relief Fund, a public-health initiative for prevention and control of CHC in Punjab, India.

METHODS: Consecutive children with CHC [age ≥12 to <18 >years; both treatment-naïve (TN) and treatment-experienced (TE)] were enrolled. Genotyping was not recommended for non-cirrhotic patients and were treated with sofosbuvir (SOF)+ daclatasvir (DCV) for 12 weeks, while genotyping was recommended for patients with cirrhosis. Patients with cirrhosis and genotype (G2) were treated with SOF+DCV+ribavirin (RBV) for 12 weeks, G3 with SOF+DCV+RBV for 24 weeks and G1, 4, 5, and 6 patients were treated with SOF+ledipasvir (LDV)+RBV for 12 weeks. Treatment duration was increased to 24 weeks if RBV was not tolerated.

RESULTS: In the first 16 months (June 18, 2016-October 31, 2017), 88 children (mean age 15.8 years; 69.3.3% boys, 72.3% rural) were enrolled. The mean baseline hepatitis C virus RNA log10 IU/mL was 6.0 (range 4.2-7.5 log10 IU/mL), 65.5% with G3, and 2 (2.5%) with cirrhosis. Of 57 with completed treatment, sustained virological response (SVR) 12 was achieved in 56 (98.2%). Unsafe medical practices (55.5%), IV drug abuse (11.1%), and prior surgery (2.7%) were risk-factors for transmission (n = 36). Comparable results were noted in G3 (SVR at 12 weeks [SVR12], 94.3%) versus non-G3 (SVR12, 100%; P = 0.073). No serious adverse effects like anemia and decompensation were reported.

CONCLUSIONS: The study demonstrates that the decentralized algorithm-based public-health program can ensure high efficacy (SVR12, 98.2%) and low-cost DAA-based treatment of pediatric patients with CHC.