Volume 3, Issue 13
April 1, 2010

Simple treatment for cirrhosis
in hepatitis C patients

If you have hepatitis C, you probably know that cirrhosis is the leading cause of death among those with the disease. Cirrhosis is extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, doctors have been afraid to use a powerful treatment for hepatitis C sufferers on those with cirrhosis. They didn't know the treatment was safe for them - or even beneficial. Well, now there's hope for those with this all-too common problem.

The treatment is iron reduction therapy (IRT). IRT (also referred to as a therapeutic phlebotomy) involves intravenously removing 250-500 cubic centimeters of blood on a regular basis until their iron levels come down to an acceptable level. Most people can simply donate blood to eliminate high iron stores. But hepatitis C patients cannot donate blood. So they have to use IRT instead.

Doctors know IRT is beneficial for chronic hepatitis C patients. But cirrhosis was altogether different. They just weren't sure if the treatment was good — or safe — for these patients. Recently researchers at Showa Inan General Hospital in Komagane, Japan have answered that question.

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They administered IRT twice a week for six months to 19 patients with cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C. They compared the results to 19 other hepatitis C cirrhosis patients who did not receive the therapy. The results were remarkable. The lower iron levels caused the elevated liver enzymes in the treated patients to be cut in half, and fall into the normal range. In addition, the alpha-fetoprotein levels fell as well.

Alpha-fetoprotein is a very specific blood marker for the level of liver damage in patients with hepatitis C. The patients treated with IRT had their levels fall from 28 ng/mL all the way down to 12 ng/mL. This is a full 57% reduction, and is highly significant. The only side effects occurred in the two patients who had blood albumin levels of less than 3.6 g/dL.

The researchers concluded that IRT is an effective treatment for patients who have hepatitis C-induced cirrhosis. They also said it's safe as long as the serum albumin levels are greater than 3.6 g/dL. This is particularly good news for anyone with this condition, because it's the leading cause of death related to hepatitis C.

If you have hepatitis C and cirrhosis, take this to your doctor and ask him to perform IRT. You'll be glad you did.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

Ref: Tanaka N, Horiuchi A, Yamaura T, et al. Efficacy and safety of 6-month iron reduction therapy in patients with hepatitis C virus-related cirrhosis: a pilot study. J Gastroenterol. 2007 Jan;42(1):49-55. Epub 2007 Feb 16.


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