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Annu Rev Med. 2001;52:29-49.

Current treatment strategies for chronic hepatitis B and C.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


For chronic hepatitis B, treatment with a 4-month course of interferon alfa-2b can achieve hepatitis B e antigen seroconversion, normalization of aminotransferase levels, reduced hepatic inflammation, and possibly reduced progression to cirrhosis and improvement in survival in 20%-30% of patients. Similar results can be achieved with a 12-month course of lamivudine, with response rates increasing to 40%-65% after 3 years of therapy. Interferon can also be used in early cirrhotic patients, and lamivudine can be used in advanced cirrhotics and immunosuppressed patients. Combination interferon and lamivudine therapy does not confer additional benefits. For chronic hepatitis C, the combination of interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin is the treatment of choice, offering superior sustained response rates (40%) compared with interferon alone (15%). Therapy should be administered for 12 months to patients with genotype 1 virus but for only 6 months to patients with genotypes 2 and 3. Patients experiencing relapse after 6 months of interferon monotherapy can be re-treated with interferon and ribavirin or high-dose interferon, with 45%-56% sustained response rates. However, relatively few patients who are prior nonresponders to interferon monotherapy will have sustained response to further interferon-based treatments, including combination therapy with ribavirin. Successful therapy not only leads to the eradication of viral RNA but also may delay progression to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Interferon combined with polyethylene glycol (PEG), shows promise as an improved formulation of interferon with yet higher sustained response rates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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