I recently blogged about the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) in the treatment of hepatitis C but I suppose a RCT on the same subject takes precedence over the choreographing of a blog, especially a study like the one below. If you remember, hepatitis C is extremely common and not just in drug addicts. Many Americans have hepatitis C from blood transfusions obtained before we knew enough to screen blood for the disease. An estimated 130–170 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C. The treatment, interferon and ribavirin, is notorious for causing depression and anxiety.
Several months ago, Dr. Saif Abu-Mouch and colleagues in Israel discovered, in the first RCT using vitamin D in hepatitis C, that vitamin D helped “cure” type 1 hepatitis C. Now Dr. Abu-Mouch and his colleague, Dr. Assy Nimer, from the Ziv Medical Center in Israel, turned their attention to types 2 and 3 hepatitis. They found only 2,000 IU/day, added to standard treatment, resulted in a higher “cure” rate than standard treatment alone and did so very rapidly, in spite of only getting vitamin D levels in in the low 30s. Rapid virological response and early virological response rates were both 95%, suggesting the vitamin D worked very fast.
This is the second RCT using vitamin D in hepatitis C. It is important that this study finds its way to the doctors who work with hepatitis C patients. To quote the authors, “In conclusion, the addition of vitamin D to (standard treatment) in naïve patients infected with hepatitis C type 2-3 significantly increased the rate of viral response. We suggest routine testing of vitamin D levels prior to standard therapy and replacement treatment (with vitamin D) during treatment for chronic hepatitis C.”
I have another idea for Drs. Abu-Mouch and Nimer. Find 40 hepatitis C patients who refuse standard treatment (the side effects of standard treatment make that easy) and give one-half placebo while giving 10,000 IU/day of vitamin D to the other half for 3 months. Could vitamin D work as a standalone treatment? For the time being, we know that vitamin D plus traditional treatment is safe and effective.