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BACKGROUND: Preliminary results from combination therapy with interferon-alpha and ribavirin (IFN/Rib) in patients with chronic hepatitis C have been promising, with up to 50% sustained hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA response. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a sustained HCV RNA response could be obtained with combination therapy in patients who were non-responders or relapsers after IFN treatment. METHODS: In a multicenter study we randomized 53 HCV RNA-positive patients into 2 treatment groups. They all had biopsy-confirmed chronic hepatitis C, and all were recruited from a previous IFN study: 26 were previous non-responders and 27 responders with relapse. Group A received interferon-alpha2a, 4.5 MIU thrice weekly for 6 months, and group B received ribavirin, 1000-1200 mg/day, in combination with the same dose of interferon-alpha2a for 6 months. Median Knodell index was 5.0 in both groups. Genotype 1 was found in 24 (45%), type 2 in 3 (6%), and type 3 in 26 (49%). RESULTS: Sustained clearance of HCV viremia 6 months after interferon-alpha2a treatment stop was obtained in 12 of 53 patients (23%): 6 of 27 in the IFN group (22%) and 6 of 26 (23%) in the IFN/Rib group (NS). Nine of 27 (33%) former responders with relapse, compared with 3 of 26 (12%) non-responders, obtained a sustained HCV RNA response (P = 0.054). In previous relapse patients sustained loss of viremia was more frequent in genotype 3 (50%) than in genotype 1 (11%) patients (P = 0.022). CONCLUSIONS: In a group of previous IFN-alpha2a-treated chronic HCV patients we obtained a similar sustained clearance of viremia when retreated either with IFN-alpha2a alone or with a combination of IFN-alpha2a and ribavirin for 6 months. Previous relapse patients with HCV genotype 3 obtained sustained loss of viremia significantly more often (50%) than type-patients (11%). Previous IFN responders with relapse responded better than previous non-responders.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Scand J Gastroenterol

Publication Date

02/1999

Volume

34

Pages

194 - 198

Keywords

Adult, Antiviral Agents, Biopsy, Drug Administration Schedule, Drug Therapy, Combination, Female, Hepacivirus, Hepatitis C, Chronic, Humans, Interferon alpha-2, Interferon-alpha, Male, Middle Aged, RNA, Viral, Recombinant Proteins, Ribavirin, Viremia