Drinking Coffee Improves Response to Hepatitis C Treatment

June 7, 2011

Patients suffering from advanced hepatitis C and chronic liver disease may benefit from drinking coffee during treatment.

According to a new study, patients suffering from advanced hepatitis C and chronic liver disease may benefit from drinking coffee during treatment.

In the study, patients who received peginterferon as well as ribavirin treatment who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were twice as likely to respond positively to treatment than non-coffee drinkers.

"Coffee intake has been associated with a lower level of liver enzymes, reduced progression of chronic liver disease and reduced incidence of liver cancer," said Neal Freedman, PhD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute and lead author of this study. "Although we observed an independent association between coffee intake and virologic response to treatment, this association needs replication in other studies."

Among non-coffee drinkers, 46% of the participants achieved an early virologic response; 26% showed no detectable serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) ribonucleic acid at twenty weeks; 22% had no detectable serum at forty-eight weeks; and 11% had a sustained virologic response.

Comparatively, the corresponding proportions for those who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were 73%, 52%, 49%, and 26% respectively.

Roughly 70—80% of people exposed to HCV become chronically infected; it is estimated that 130 and 170 million people live with HCV globally. Currently, treatment with only peginterferon and ribavirin achieves a viral cure in about 50% of hepatitis C patients.

In previous studies, elevated coffee intake has been linked to slowed progression of pre-existing liver disease and a decreased risk of liver cancer. The relationship of coffee and response to hepatitis C treatment, however, has not been previously assessed.

This study also did not take into account the effect coffee would have on response rate with the addition of new drugs that were recently approved for medical use in the U.S., such as Incivek.

Additionally, due to the fact that some patients participating in the study—the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis Trial—had previously failed interferon therapy, it is not clear whether these results can be applied to other patient groups.

Future studies among patients with less advanced cases of the disease, patients who have never received treatment prior to the therapy, and patients who are being treated with newer antiviral agents may be required.

This study is published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association Institute.