Background: Therapy of chronic hepatitis C non- responders to interferon monotherapy with standard doses of interferon plus ribavirin is usually ineffective.
Aim: To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of high-dose prolonged combination retreatment in non- responder patients.
Methods: Patients were retreated for 6 months with 6 MU alphaIFN on alternate days and 1000 or 1200 mg/day ribavirin. HCV-RNA negative patients continued therapy for an additional 6 months.
Results: Forty patients (29 males, mean age 49.7 years, 34 genotype 1b, 11 with F3 fibrosis) were treated. At 6 months, 20 (50%) patients were HCV-RNA negative but six of them discontinued therapy because of adverse events. A sustained response was achieved in 28% of patients (11/40). A sustained response was more frequent among patients with genotype non-1b than in those with genotype 1b (67 vs. 21%, P=0.005) and clearance of HCV-RNA in the first 3 months had a high predictive value for sustained response (100% of sustained responders vs. 24% of non-responders, P=0.0001).
Conclusions: High-dose prolonged combination therapy in non-responders to IFN monotherapy leads to a higher rate of sustained response than the standard combination regimen. Tolerability may be a rate-limiting factor. Maximal effectiveness can be predicted in patients with non-1b genotype and in those who clear HCV-RNA soon after starting retreatment.