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NICE recommends wider use of drugs for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C

NICE is currently updating part of its guidance on the use of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C. Reflecting changes in the licensed indications for peginterferon alfa, today's draft guidance recommends wider use of these drugs for the treatment of people with this disease.

Estimates from the Health Protection Agency [Hepatitis C in the UK 2009. London: Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections, December 2009] suggest that approximately 142,000 people between the ages of 15 and 59 years had chronic hepatitis C infection in England and Wales in 2003. The prevalence of the infection, which is primarily acquired as a result of exposure through the skin to contaminated blood (for example, through injecting drug use) varies by sex and age, and it is most common in men and in people aged 25 to 44 years. In 2007, the number of confirmed new cases of hepatitis C infection in England and Wales was 7540.

Today's draft guidance, which will now be the subject of public consultation until 17 June, states that:

  • combination therapy with peginterferon alfa (2a or 2b) and ribavirin is recommended as a treatment option for people with chronic hepatitis C who have be treated previously with either drug (in combination with ribavirin or on its own), and their condition either did not respond to treatment or responded initially to treatment but then relapsed or who are also infected with HIV
  • shortened courses of combination therapy with peginterferon alfa (2a or 2b) and ribavirin, in line with the licensed indications for these drugs, are recommended as an option for the treatment of people with chronic hepatitis C.

Dr Gillian Leng, NICE Deputy Chief Executive, said: “Chronic hepatitis C can be a debilitating condition, which, if left untreated can lead to serious life-long health consequences. However, the treatments themselves do have some side effects, which is why this draft guidance is good news for people who want to consider taking shorter courses of treatment with peginterferon alfa. And by recommending the use of these drugs for people who have not responded to or have relapsed following initial treatment, and for people who are also infected with HIV, the number of people with hepatitis C who stand to benefit from treatment will increase. Widening access to these drugs will not increase the NHS drug budget by much but will give clinicians and people living with hepatitis C more treatment options.“

This draft guidance has been issued for consultation: NICE has not yet issued final guidance to the NHS. Comments received during this consultation will be considered by the independent Appraisal Committee. Until NICE issues final guidance, NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments. Once NICE issues its guidance on a technology it replaces local recommendations across the country.

Download the press release.

This page was last updated: 25 May 2010

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Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.