March 15 (UPI) -- An eight-week treatment regimen for hepatitis C is just as effective as the recommended 12 weeks in African-American patients, according to a Harvard study.
Because of the shorter treatment, patients with the serious liver disease can have their costs reduced, according to a study published this week in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
In the United States, an estimated 3.5 million people are living with hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But in the African-American community, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, which often are hepatitis C-related, were among the leading causes of death for people between age 45 and 64.
"Our findings do not support current hepatitis C treatment guidelines that recommend against the use of a shorter course of treatment in black patients," Dr. Julia L. Marcus, assistant professor of Population Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, said in a press release.
The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and Infectious Diseases Society of America recommend a 12-week course of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir for black patients, even if they meet clinical eligibility criteria for a shorter regime because studies concluded that treatment may be less effective for black patients treated for eight weeks.
But these studies did not compare the efficacy of two methods of treatment in black patients otherwise eligible for the eight-week regimen.
Researchers compared the effectiveness of eight and 12-week regimens among 2,653 patients, including African-Americans, eligible to receive eight weeks of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir within the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health system from October 2014 to December 2016.
In the black subgroup, 1,958 received eight weeks of treatment and 695 had 12 weeks.
The effectiveness of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir was more than 95 percent effective for each method in most subgroups evaluated, including black patients.
"The eight-week regimen was also generally underused for all patients, with 26 percent of those eligible for eight weeks receiving 12 weeks of therapy," Marcus said.