Background: Conventional interferon monotherapy fails to achieve virological clearance in most hepatitis C-infected patients. The use of high-dose induction regimens may improve the initial clearance of virus, while the addition of ribavirin appears to improve the rates of sustained response once clearance is achieved. Aim: To compare the efficacy and safety of re-treatment with an induction regimen of high-dose interferon alpha-2b, with or without ribavirin, in chronic hepatitis C patients who have not responded to standard dose interferon monotherapy. Methods: Previous virological non-responders to standard dose interferon (3-5 MU three times weekly for ≥ 12 weeks) were randomized to receive, unblind, either 10 MU interferon alpha-2b daily for 10 days, then 5 MU daily for 74 days, then 5 MU three times weekly for 24 weeks (total 36 weeks) (group A), or the above regimen with the addition of ribavirin, 1000-1200 mg/day, at day 11 (group B). All patients were followed up for 24 weeks after completion of therapy. Results: End of treatment virological response was noted in one of 10 (10%) patients in group A and in eight of 15 (54%) patients in group B (P = 0.04). The sole end treatment responder in group A and three in group B relapsed on follow-up. The apparent improvement in response in group B compared to group A nearly reached statistical significance (group B 5/15 vs. group A 0/10; P = 0.06). Conclusions: In this small pilot study, a 36-week high-dose induction interferon monotherapy protocol did not yield sustained responses in previous non-responders to standard dose interferon. However, the same regimen with ribavirin yielded a 33% sustained response rate, nearly reaching statistical significance. The therapy was well tolerated, despite the higher doses of interferon used and the addition of ribavirin. High-dose interferon with ribavirin appears to be a therapeutic option for non-responders to conventional interferon monotherapy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)