Combined Treatment with Antiviral Therapy and Rituximab in Patients with Mixed Cryoglobulinemia: Review of the Literature and Report of a Case Using Direct Antiviral Agents-Based Antihepatitis C Virus Therapy
BACKGROUND & AIMS The aim of this study was to analyse the safety and efficacy of the PegIFNα/ribavirin/protease inhibitor combination in severe and/or refractory hepatitis C virus (HCV)-mixed cryoglobulinemia (MC) vasculitis. METHODS This prospective cohort study included 30 patients (median age 59 years [53-66] and 57% of women) with HCV-MC vasculitis. PegIFNα/ribavirin (for 48 weeks) was associated with telaprevir (375 mg three times daily, for 12 weeks, [n = 17]) or boceprevir (800 mg three times daily, for 44 weeks, (n = 13]). RESULTS Twenty three patients (76.7%) were non-responders to previous antiviral therapy. At week 72, twenty patients (66.7%) were complete clinical and sustained virological responders. The cryoglobulin level decreased from 0.45 to 0 g/L (p<0.0001) and the C4 level increased from 0.09 to 0.14 g/L (p = 0.017). Complete clinical responders had a higher frequency of purpura (16/20 [80%] vs. 4/10 [40%], p = 0.045), and a trend towards lower frequency of neuropathy (9/20 (45%) vs. 8/10 [80%], p = 0.12) compared with partial responders. Serious adverse events occurred in 14 patients (46.6%) during the 72 weeks of follow-up. Twenty eight patients (93.3%) received erythropoietin, 14 (46.6%) had red blood cell transfusion and 2 (6.6%) received granulocyte stimulating agent. The baseline factors associated with serious adverse events included liver fibrosis (p = 0.045) and a low platelet count (p = 0.021). CONCLUSIONS The PegIFNα/ribavirin/protease inhibitor combination is highly effective in severe and/or refractory HCV-MC at the cost of frequent side effects. Baseline platelet count and liver fibrosis are useful in guiding treatment decisions.