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Liver. 2000 Dec;20(6):427-36.

Efficacy of a short-term ribavirin plus interferon alpha combination therapy followed by interferon alpha alone in previously untreated patients with chronic hepatitis C: a randomized multicenter trial.

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  • 1Medizinische Klinik mit Schwerpunkt, Hepatologie und Gastroenterologie, Universit√§tsklinikum Charit√©, Humboldt-Universit√§t, Berlin, Germany. thomas.berg@charite.de

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Combination therapy with interferon alpha (IFNalpha) plus ribavirin has been shown to improve the sustained response rate in patients with chronic hepatitis C but there is little information regarding the lengths of time for this therapeutic regimen. In this study we therefore tried to evaluate whether the analysis of different virological parameters could provide new clues with respect to the early determination of the efficacy of this form of combination therapy. Furthermore, we also examined whether short-term induction combination therapy followed by IFNalpha alone is more effective than monotherapy in mounting an initial as well as a sustained virological response.

METHODS:

185 patients with histologically proven chronic hepatitis C (mean age 42 years (range 19-65 years); 110 males, 75 females) were enrolled in the study. The patients were randomly assigned to receive, over the first 12 weeks, either interferon alpha 2a 6 million units (MU) three times weekly plus ribavirin 14 mg/kg per day (n=93) or the same dose of IFNalpha alone (n=92). Patients with a virological response (serum HCV RNA undetectable) after 12 weeks were subsequently treated with 3 MU IFNalpha alone thrice weekly for a further 40 weeks. Otherwise, treatment was discontinued. After the end of treatment, patients were followed up for 24 weeks.

RESULTS:

Patient characteristics at baseline were not significantly different in the two treatment groups. An initial virological response at week 12 was seen in 61 (66%) patients receiving IFNalpha plus ribavirin and in 44 (48%) being treated with IFNalpha alone (p=0.015) and this improvement in the response rate was mainly restricted to HCV genotype 1-infected patients (58% vs. 38%). In contrast, end-of-treatment (week 52) and sustained virological response rates were similar in both groups (37% vs. 29% and 26% vs. 17% [p=0.1], respectively). Interestingly, patients with HCV genotype 3, however, clearly benefited from short-term combination therapy. Thus, sustained virological response rates in these patients significantly increased from 25% (IFNalpha monotherapy) to 59% (combination therapy) (p=0.05).

CONCLUSIONS:

Short-term combined therapy for 12 weeks is more effective than the monotherapy with respect to the induction of an initial virological response but this effect applies only to genotype 1-infected patients. However, there is no significant difference between both therapeutic schedules with regard to the induction of sustained response. Although HCV genotype 3-infected patients seem to benefit from this short-term combined therapy, prolonged combined therapy may be necessary in HCV genotype 1-infected patients.

PMID:
11169056
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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