Background/aims: We retrospectively evaluated the long-term efficacy of interferon retreatment in patients with chronic hepatitis C, who did not have a sustained response to a 1st cycle of treatment.
Methodology: Sixty-six patients, 43 non-responder and 23 relapser to alpha interferon treatment, were retreated with alpha interferon, 6 MU thrice weekly for 12 months. Response was defined as negative HCV viremia. Responders underwent long-term follow-up (27-43 months).
Results: The response rates were 14% and 35% at the end of retreatment, 7% and 22% at 6 months, and 2% and 13% at long-term follow-up in non-responders and relapsers respectively. The outcome of retreatment was not statistically influenced by age, cirrhosis, viral genotype, dose and duration of previous treatment.
Conclusions: Interferon retreatment, for sustained viral eradication, is not effective in non-responders and useful in few relapsers. Whereas, retreatment could prove effective in slowing down the activity of the disease and reducing the incidence of hepatocarcinoma, since some relapses occur late during the follow-up. Therefore, retreatment should be confined to relapsers with contraindications to new more efficient therapeutic strategies.