Burnet Institute’s most senior hepatitis researchers and public health clinicians have outlined the case for new highly effective hepatitis C treatments in a commentary published in The Lancet.
The article was drafted as a rebuttal to an adverse evaluation of the medications by the independent Cochrane Collaboration, which reviews the randomised control trials to facilitate evidence-based choices for health professionals and policy makers.
In an assessment of drug company trials, the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that while the new direct acting anti-virals (DAAs) may clear the hepatitis C virus (HCV) from the blood, there’s no evidence they prevent harm from disease or save lives.
Cochrane Collaboration spokesman Janus Christian Jakobsen told The Guardian “our results indicate (the drugs) may have no clinical effect”.
The Burnet researchers – Dr Joseph Doyle, Dr Peter Higgs, Associate Professor Mark Stoové, Professor Paul Dietze, and Professor Margaret Hellard, with St. Vincent’s Hospital’s Professor Alex Thompson – are concerned the Cochrane Collaboration’s scepticism creates a false sense of uncertainty.
“Direct randomised evidence that DAA treatment prevents mortality or morbidity is unlikely to emerge in view of the long time from treatment to liver disease complications or death, except perhaps in certain subpopulations with advanced liver disease and highest risk,” the authors write.
“Nevertheless, long-term follow-up after treatment is highly likely to provide such evidence in the years to come.
“Failure to treat individuals – or whole populations – while waiting for direct evidence of long-term clinical outcome data to emerge will lead to substantial and avoidable excess mortality and morbidity globally.”
The authors argue that as treatment costs continue to fall, millions of people and populations worldwide will have the opportunity to be cured of hepatitis C.
“The available evidence indicates that HCV treatment is life-changing for individuals. For that reason, the media’s portrayal of the key message of Jakobsen and colleagues’ review that HCV treatment ‘may have no clinical effect’ should be forcefully rebutted.”
Read the Burnet-St Vincent’s Lancet commentary here, and find out more about Burnet’s important hepatitis research programs.