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Clin Ther. 2002 Oct;24(10):1627-35.

Controlled clinical trial to assess the response of recent heroin abusers with chronic hepatitis C virus infection to treatment with interferon alpha-n2b.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Catania, Saint Martha Hospital, Catania, Italy. sergio.neri4@tin.it



Chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common infectious disease among heroin abusers, but it is recommended that specific treatment with interferon be delayed until at least 6 to 12 months after the end of drug addiction.


We investigated the response of heroin abusers to interferon treatment shortly after the end of detoxification treatment with methadone.


We studied 2 homogeneous groups of white Italian patients with chronic HCV infection: former male heroin abusers and males without a history of drug addiction. Tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1beta, interleukin-2, activated monocytes, anti-HCV antibodies, HCV RNA, and alanine aminotransferase levels were assessed. Standard treatment was initiated with 5 MU interferon alpha-n2b administered subcutaneously once daily for 8 weeks. Patients with negative HCV-RNA findings at the end of 8 weeks received further treatment with 5 MU TIW subcutaneously for an additional 48 weeks.


Thirty of 47 patients in group A (former heroin abusers) and 30 of 30 patients in group B (controls) completed the study. Heroin abusers presented a significantly enhanced response to treatment compared with the controls. After 8 weeks, HCV-RNA test results were negative in 27 of 30 patients in group A (90.0%) and in 25 of 30 in group B (83.3%) (P = NS). Onset of relapse occurred significantly later in heroin abusers (mean [SD], 53 [3] weeks) than in controls (26 [2] weeks) (P < 0.05). Cytokine levels and activated CD11 antigen-expressing monocytes were significantly (P < 0.001) higher in heroin abusers than controls.


Heroin abusers with chronic HCV infection were successfully treated with interferon alpha-n2b soon after the end of detoxification treatment.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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