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Teuber, Gerlinde; Berg, Thomas; Hoffmann, Robert M.; Leifeld, Ludger; Lafrenz, Michael; Spengler, Ulrich; Pape, Gerd R.; Hopf, Uwe; Zeuzem, Stefan (2000): Retreatment with interferon-alpha and ribavirin in primary interferon-alpha non-responders with chronic hepatitis C. In: Digestion, No. 2: pp. 90-97


Background/Aims: Combination therapy with interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) plus ribavirin is more efficacious than IFN-alpha monotherapy in previously untreated patients with chronic hepatitis C and patients with IFN-alpha relapse. Only limited data are available in IFN-alpha non-responders. In a multicenter trial we therefore evaluated the efficacy of combination therapy in IFN-alpha-resistant chronic hepatitis C. Methods: Eighty-two patients (mean age 46.8 years, 54 males, 28 females) with chronic hepatitis C were treated with IFN-alpha-2a (3 x 6 MIU/week) and ribavirin (14 mg/kg daily) for 12 weeks. Thereafter, treatment was continued only in virological responders (undetectable serum HCV RNA at week 12) with an IFN-alpha dose of 3 x 3 MIU/week and without ribavirin for a further 9 months. The primary study endpoint was an undetectable HCV RNA by RT-PCR at the end of the 24-week follow-up period. Results: After 12 weeks of combination therapy, an initial virological response was observed in 29 of 82 (35.4%) patients. Due to a high breakthrough rate after IFN-a dose reduction and ribavirin discontinuation, an end-of-treatment response was only achieved in 12 of 82 (14.6%) patients. After the follow-up period, a sustained virological response was observed in 8 of 82 (9.8%) patients. Infection with HCV genotype 3 was the only pretreatment parameter, which could predict a sustained response (HCV-1, 5%; HCV-3, 57.1%; p < 0.001). Conclusions: Despite a high initial response rate of 35.4%, sustained viral clearance was achieved only in 9.8% of the retreated primary IFN-alpha non-responders. Higher IFN-alpha induction and maintenance dose, as well as prolonged ribavirin treatment may possibly increase the virological response rates in non-responders, particularly in those infected by HCV-1.