1Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Biomedical Research Unit, Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK email@example.com.
Until recently in the UK the treatment of HCV depended on combination regimes of interferon (IFN) and the antiviral drug ribavirin. These regimes required regular injections and were of variable duration (generally for a minimum of 12 weeks), and the use of IFN often caused unacceptable side effects (thrombocytopenia, leukopenia and depression). Of the common HCV genotypes in the UK, genotype 1 responded relatively poorly to these regimes (50-60% viral clearance), while most (80% plus) of genotype 3 patients responded with sustained viral clearance. Patients with severe liver disease (decompensated cirrhosis) tolerated these regimens very poorly and often their liver function deteriorated. The recent introduction of a series of direct anti-viral agents (DAAs) offers the potential to revolutionise treatment, particularly in genotype 1 patients and those with advanced liver disease, as drug regimens avoiding IFN have been developed, and can be curative in, for example, 95% of genotype 1 patients. The DAAs are currently being evaluated and introduced into UK clinical practice. Choice of drug regime, and strategies for identifying patient groups suitable for treatment, are discussed, as are the prospects for eventual complete control of the HCV epidemic.