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Hepat Mon. 2012 Jun;12(6):372-81. doi: 10.5812/hepatmon.6592. Epub 2012 Jun 30.

Low dose ribavirin for treatment of hepatitis C virus infected thalassemia major patients; new indications for combination therapy.

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Baqiyatallah Research Center for Gastroenterology and Liver Disease, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran.



Treatment guidelines contraindicate ribavirin for treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in thalassemia major patients. Nevertheless, the current evidence suggests that ribavirin might be tolerated by these patients.


Despite this evidence, low dose ribavirin combination therapy has not been compared with peginterferon monotherapy in these patients so far.


Two hundred eighty thalassemia patients with detectable HCV-RNA PCR (≥ 50 IU/mL) and liver histology consistent with chronic HCV infection were self-assigned to receive peginterferon alfa-2a (n = 81) monotherapy or its combination therapy with ribavirin, 600-800 mg QD, according to hemoglobin levels (n = 199). Treatment experienced patients were eligible for this study.


Sustained virological response (SVR) was significantly higher in patients who received ribavirin (51 % vs. 38 % P = 0.02). In multivariate regression, OR of ribavirin for prediction of SVR was 2.2 (95 % CI 1.24-3.91). The SVR was significantly higher in the ribavirin group in subgroups of patients with more than 24 years of age, elevated ALT, ferritin < 2006 ng/mL, previous treatment failure, genotype 1, positive history of splenectomy, fibrosis score of 0-4 HAI and viral load < 600,000 IU/mL. Treatment discontinuations due to the safety concerns were comparable between the treatment groups (6.5 and 8 %). Furthermore, transfusion intervals were almost halved in patients who received low dose ribavirin.


According to the present study, adult thalassemia patients with HCV infection can be treated successfully with low dose ribavirin. Hence, we strongly advise combination therapy in thalassemia patients with aforementioned clinical characteristics. Moreover, ribavirin does not seem to be beneficial in thalassemia patients below 18 years of age.


Beta-Thalassemia; Hepacivirus; Peginterferon Alfa-2a; Ribavirin

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