Hepatitis C Treatment Less Effective In Hispanics

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The standard hepatitis C treatment appears to be less effective in Hispanics than in whites, likely because of unknown biological differences, according to a study published on Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Miami Herald reports.

For the study, lead researcher Lennox Jeffers, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and Paul Martin, chief of hepatology at the UM medical school, studied 269 Hispanics and 300 non-Hispanic whites with hepatitis C. Participants were given the standard combination treatment of pegylated interferon -- sold under the name Pegasus -- and ribavirin during a period of 48 weeks (Tasker, Miami Herald, 1/14).

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The treatment was considered effective if participants became virus-free for six months after receiving the drug combination. The treatment was effective for 49% of white participants, compared with 34% of Hispanics. Among Hispanics, the virus was either never cleared from the patient's bloodstream or it returned again later, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The findings were similar to previous studies that found Pegasus was ineffective in nearly 75% of black patients

Martin said, "There may be factors in individuals, in their immune response that may be related to their ethnicity" (LaMendola, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/14).
Jeffers added, "We don't know the exact mechanism" causing the different response. Jeffers noted that because blacks and Hispanics traditionally are underrepresented in clinical trials, it is difficult to determine which drug combinations are effective for them. He added that more recent clinical trials have been more diverse.

Martin said new drugs might prove more effective for blacks and Hispanics (Miami Herald, 1/14). Jeffers noted that combinations of new and old drugs were effective in two-thirds of white patients and about half of minorities. "They may not reverse the disparities, but they will work better for everyone," he said (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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