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      Hepatitis Infection in the Treatment of Opioid Dependence and Abuse

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          Many new and existing cases of viral hepatitis infections are related to injection drug use. Transmission of these infections can result directly from the use of injection equipment that is contaminated with blood containing the hepatitis B or C virus or through sexual contact with an infected individual. In the latter case, drug use can indirectly contribute to hepatitis transmission through the dis-inhibited at-risk behavior, that is, unprotected sex with an infected partner. Individuals who inject drugs are at-risk for infection from different hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, or C. Those with chronic hepatitis B virus infection also face additional risk should they become co-infected with hepatitis D virus. Protection from the transmission of hepatitis viruses A and B is best achieved by vaccination. For those with a history of or who currently inject drugs, the medical management of viral hepatitis infection comprising screening, testing, counseling and providing care and treatment is evolving. Components of the medical management of hepatitis infection, for persons considering, initiating, or receiving pharmacologic therapy for opioid addiction include: testing for hepatitis B and C infections; education and counseling regarding at-risk behavior and hepatitis transmission, acute and chronic hepatitis infection, liver disease and its care and treatment; vaccination against hepatitis A and B infection; and integrative primary care as part of the comprehensive treatment approach for recovery from opioid abuse and dependence. In addition, participation in a peer support group as part of integrated medical care enhances treatment outcomes. Liver disease is highly prevalent in patient populations seeking recovery from opioid addiction or who are currently receiving pharmacotherapy for opioid addiction. Pharmacotherapy for opioid addiction is not a contraindication to evaluation, care, or treatment of liver disease due to hepatitis virus infection. Successful pharmacotherapy for opioid addiction stabilizes patients and improves patient compliance to care and treatment regimens as well as promotes good patient outcomes. Implementation and integration of effective hepatitis prevention programs, care programs, and treatment regimens in concert with the pharmacological therapy of opioid addiction can reduce the public health burdens of hepatitis and injection drug use.

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          Hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhosis: incidence and risk factors.

          Emerging data indicate that the mortality rate of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) associated with cirrhosis is rising in some developed countries, whereas mortality from non-HCC complications of cirrhosis is decreasing or is stable. Cohort studies indicate that HCC is currently the major cause of liver-related death in patients with compensated cirrhosis. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is associated with the highest HCC incidence in persons with cirrhosis, occurring twice as commonly in Japan than in the West (5-year cumulative incidence, 30% and 17%, respectively), followed by hereditary hemochromatosis (5-year cumulative incidence, 21%). In hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related cirrhosis, the 5-year cumulative HCC risk is 15% in high endemic areas and 10% in the West. In the absence of HCV and HBV infection, the HCC incidence is lower in alcoholic cirrhotics (5-year cumulative risk, 8%) and subjects with advanced biliary cirrhosis (5-year cumulative risk, 4%). There are limited data on HCC risk in cirrhosis of other causes. Older age, male sex, severity of compensated cirrhosis at presentation, and sustained activity of liver disease are important predictors of HCC, independent of etiology of cirrhosis. In viral-related cirrhosis, HBV/HCV and HBV/HDV coinfections increase the HCC risk (2- to 6-fold relative to each infection alone) as does alcohol abuse (2- to 4-fold relative to alcohol abstinence). Sustained reduction of HBV replication lowers the risk of HCC in HBV-related cirrhosis. Further studies are needed to investigate other viral factors (eg, HBV genotype/mutant, occult HBV, HIV coinfection) and preventable or treatable comorbidities (eg, obesity, diabetes) in the HCC risk in cirrhosis.
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              Interferon alfa-2b alone or in combination with ribavirin as initial treatment for chronic hepatitis C. Hepatitis Interventional Therapy Group.

              Only 15 to 20 percent of patients with chronic hepatitis C have a sustained virologic response to interferon therapy. We compared the efficacy and safety of recombinant interferon alfa-2b alone with those of a combination of interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin for the initial treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C. We randomly assigned 912 patients with chronic hepatitis C to receive standard-dose interferon alfa-2b alone or in combination with ribavirin (1000 or 1200 mg orally per day, depending on body weight) for 24 or 48 weeks. Efficacy was assessed by measurements of serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA and serum aminotransferases and by liver biopsy. The rate of sustained virologic response (defined as an undetectable serum HCV RNA level 24 weeks after treatment was completed) was higher among patients who received combination therapy for either 24 weeks (70 of 228 patients, 31 percent) or 48 weeks (87 of 228 patients, 38 percent) than among patients who received interferon alone for either 24 weeks (13 of 231 patients, 6 percent) or 48 weeks (29 of 225 patients, 13 percent) (P<0.001 for the comparison of interferon alone with both 24 weeks and 48 weeks of combination treatment). Among patients with HCV genotype 1 infection, the best response occurred in those who were treated for 48 weeks with interferon and ribavirin. Histologic improvement was more common in patients who were treated with combination therapy for either 24 weeks (57 percent) or 48 weeks (61 percent) than in those who were treated with interferon alone for either 24 weeks (44 percent) or 48 weeks (41 percent). The drug doses had to be reduced and treatment discontinued more often in patients who were treated with combination therapy. In patients with chronic hepatitis C, initial therapy with interferon and ribavirin was more effective than treatment with interferon alone.

                Author and article information

                [1 ]Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.
                [2 ]Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco and Organization to Achieve Solutions In Substance Abuse (O.A.S.I.S.) Oakland, CA.
                [3 ]Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institute on Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, DHHS, Bethesda, MD.
                [4 ]Division of Substance Abuse, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center Bronx, NY.
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Thomas F. Kresina Ph.D., Division of Pharmacologic Therapies, 1 Choke Cherry Road, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, SAMHSA Rockville, MD 20857. Tel: 240-276-2713; Email: tkresina@
                Subst Abuse
                Subst Abuse
                Substance Abuse Research and Treatment
                Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment
                Libertas Academica
                28 April 2008
                : 1
                : 15-61
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