As regards the liver cancer risks that have been mentioned in connection with the hepatitis C drugs Sovaldi and Harvoni, during the past nine months there have been mixed messages about whether there is an apparent side-effect situation or not.
We start our update on this still emerging drug safety issue with this April 2016 Medscape news report, “Liver Cancer Found in Hepatitis C Patients on New Antivirals”, from which we get this excerpt:
In a surprising number of patients with hepatitis C and cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma develops within weeks of starting treatment with direct-acting antivirals, new research suggests.
“I do not think that direct-acting antivirals are directly responsible,” said lead investigator Stefano Brillanti, MD, from the University of Bologna, Italy.
“The hypothesis is that immune surveillance may be reduced too rapidly,” he told Medscape Medical News. “You have an immediate drop in viremia, but also attenuation of inflammation. I think inflammation is a bad thing in terms of hepatitis progression, but it may be a good thing in terms of controlling cancer.”
Then we move forward to this November 2016 article published by PracticeUpdate as part of their Gastroenterology section, “Direct-Acting Antiviral Medications for Hepatitis C Virus Infection Do Not Raise Cancer Risk”, from which we get this more recent information:
Patients with hepatitis C who take direct-acting antiviral medications have been found to be at no higher risk of developing liver cancer than those who do not take the medication. If they do develop liver cancer, however, they might be at an increased risk of more aggressive, infiltrative patterns of cancer.
This finding of a retrospective database study was reported at The Liver Meeting 2016, from November 11 – 15.
Alfredo Alberti, MD, of the University of Padova, Italy, explained, “Data on clinical outcomes in cirrhotic patients with hepatitis C treated with direct-acting antiviral agents are still scanty and controversial. This is the case concerning the development of a liver cancer, one of the most frequent and deadly complications of hepatitis C virus infection.”
We will continue to monitor the medical literature and watch for any drug regulatory agency action concerning the possible association between direct-acting antiviral hepatitis C drugs like Sovaldi and Harvoni with liver cancer diagnoses, be it the initial incidence or a recurrence of the hepatocellular carcinoma.
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