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Am J Gastroenterol. 1997 Oct;92(10):1831-4.

Effect of iron depletion on long-term response to interferon-alpha in patients with chronic hepatitis C who previously did not respond to interferon therapy.

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St. Francis Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.


About half of patients with chronic hepatitis C treated with interferon will not have a biochemical or virological response. Several studies suggested that increased hepatic iron content may negatively influence the response to interferon. We conducted this prospective trial to evaluate the effect of iron depletion on the response to a repeat course of interferon in 20 chronic hepatitis C patients who previously had not responded to interferon. The patients underwent 500-ml phlebotomies every 2 weeks until iron deficiency was achieved. Patients were then started on a 6-month course of interferon alfa-2b (3 million units, t.i.w.). These patients required a mean of 6.0 (range, 1-14) phlebotomies to become iron deficient. ALT levels decreased in 18 of 20 patients and became normal in 4 patients. Mean ALT levels decreased from 154.2 to 87.9 U/L (p = 0.0006). At the end of 24 wk of interferon therapy, ALT levels were normal in 11 patients, 3 of whom had undetectable HCV RNA in the serum. One additional patient with abnormal ALT had undetectable HCV RNA. After 6 months of follow-up, one of the HCV RNA negative patients relapsed with reappearance of HCV RNA and elevation of ALT. In summary, 15% of chronic hepatitis C patients who previously failed interferon now had a sustained response to interferon therapy that was preceded by iron depletion.

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