Efficacy of interferon dose and prediction of response in chronic hepatitis C: Benelux study in 336 patients

J. T. Brouwer, F. Nevens, B. Kleter, A. Elewaut, M. Adler, R. Brenard, R. A. Chamuleau, P. P. Michielsen, J. Pirotte, M. L. Hautekeete, J. Weber, N. Bourgeois, B. E. Hansen, C. M. Bronkhorst, F. J. ten Kate, R. A. Heijtink, J. Fevery, S. W. Schalm

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In an attempt to improve the limited efficacy of treatment of chronic hepatitis C with interferon-alpha 3 MU tiw, we studied the effects of double-dose therapy followed by downward titration, and analyzed the pre- and pertreatment factors associated with response or non-response. Three hundred and fifty-four consecutive patients in 19 centers were randomized to interferon-alpha 3 MU tiw for 6 months or 6 MU tiw for 8 weeks followed by down-titration (3,1 MU tiw) till alanine aminotransferase remained normal and plasma HCV RNA was repeatedly undetectable. The primary outcome measure was sustained alanine aminotransferase and HCV RNA response 6 months after treatment. Three hundred and thirty-six patients received treatment. The sustained response rate for patients receiving 3 MU tiw for 6 months was 14% (9-21%,) and for patients receiving double dose tiw for 8 weeks and thereafter titrated therapy 15% (10-21%) (p=0.8). Pretreatment factors associated with a sustained alanine aminotransferase plus HCV RNA response were the absence of cirrhosis, presence of genotype 2 or 3, a low viral load and, in addition, a low alanine aminotransferase/aspartate aminotransferase ratio; a model was developed to allow estimation of the chance of response for the individual patient. The most powerful predictor of sustained response, however, was plasma HCV RNA at week 4; a positive test virtually precluded a sustained response (1.7%, 0.4-5.0%). If week 4 HCV RNA was not detectable, the chance of a sustained response was 21% (12-34%) for genotype 1 versus 40% (28-54%) for the others (p=0.02). Six MU tiw led to a significantly higher week 4 HCV RNA response (47% not detectable) than 3 MU (37%) (p=0.02). During down-titration this difference in viral on-treatment response was lost. In the treatment of hepatitis C, an early HCV RNA response is a prerequisite for long-term efficacy. Doubling the initial interferon dose increases this early response, but subsequent downward titration negates this effect, especially in genotype 1
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-959
JournalJournal of hepatology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1998

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