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Am J Gastroenterol. 1995 Feb;90(2):263-9.

Recombinant interferon-alpha and ursodeoxycholic acid versus interferon-alpha alone in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C: a randomized clinical trial with long-term follow-up.

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  • 12nd Gastroenterology Division, University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy.



The purpose of this study was to compare, within a randomized controlled trial, the efficacy of recombinant interferon-alpha in combination with ursodeoxycholic acid versus interferon-alpha alone in the treatment of chronic HCV hepatitis.


Forty anti-HCV positive chronic hepatitis patients with ALT levels persistently greater than 3 times the upper normal level were randomized to receive either interferon-alpha (6 million units three times/wk for 6 months) plus ursodeoxycholic acid (10 mg/kg/day for 9 months) (n = 20) or interferon-alpha (6 million units three times/wk for 6 months) alone (n = 20). Disease activity was monitored monthly by ALT measurement until 18 months after interferon-alpha cessation. Serum HCV-RNA was measured at baseline and after 6, 9, and 24 months. Liver biopsies (basal and at the 9th month) were evaluated blindly and scored by Knodell's criteria.


The probability of full or partial response during interferon-alpha treatment was similar in the two groups. The probability of biochemical relapse (i.e, any persistent return of ALT above normal) after 18-month of posttreatment follow-up was 75% in both the combination and the monotherapy group. Relapse, however, occurred significantly later in the combination than in the monotherapy group (6.6 +/- 5.4 [SD] months and 1.8 +/- 1.6 months after IFN-alpha cessation, respectively, p < 0.02). Severe biochemical relapse (i.e., a persistent ALT elevation greater than 3 times normal) occurred more frequently and earlier (p = 0.05) in patients treated with interferon-alpha (58.3%) than in those receiving the combination therapy (27.3%). The cumulative duration of normalized ALT periods during and after treatment was significantly greater (p = 0.005, chi 2) in patients treated with IFN-alpha + UDCA than with monotherapy (189/354 months vs 136/323 months. Lobular necrosis improved in both groups (p = 0.056 and p = 0.001, respectively), whereas portal inflammation improved (p = 0.009) only in the combination therapy group. Among the 30 patients who were viremic at entry, plasma HCV-RNA was no longer detectable after 6 months in four from the combination group and in five from the monotherapy group, yet all patients but one returned HCV-RNA positive 3 months after interferon-alpha cessation and were still viremic after 18 months. Cox's multiple regression identified the histological degree of posttreatment portal inflammation as the sole positive indicator of relapse.


The combination of interferon-alpha and ursodeoxycholic acid prolongs the efficacy of interferon-alpha alone in chronic hepatitic C by delaying the probability of biochemical relapse and/or by reducing its severity, without affecting HCV viremia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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