Background: Treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a alone produces significantly higher sustained virologic responses than treatment with interferon alfa-2a alone in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We compared the efficacy and safety of peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin, interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin, and peginterferon alfa-2a alone in the initial treatment of chronic hepatitis C.
Methods: A total of 1121 patients were randomly assigned to treatment and received at least one dose of study medication, consisting of 180 microg of peginterferon alfa-2a once weekly plus daily ribavirin (1000 or 1200 mg, depending on body weight), weekly peginterferon alfa-2a plus daily placebo, or 3 million units of interferon alfa-2b thrice weekly plus daily ribavirin for 48 weeks.
Results: A significantly higher proportion of patients who received peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin had a sustained virologic response (defined as the absence of detectable HCV RNA 24 weeks after cessation of therapy) than of patients who received interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin (56 percent vs. 44 percent, P<0.001) or peginterferon alfa-2a alone (56 percent vs. 29 percent, P<0.001). The proportions of patients with HCV genotype 1 who had sustained virologic responses were 46 percent, 36 percent, and 21 percent, respectively, for the three regimens. Among patients with HCV genotype 1 and high base-line levels of HCV RNA, the proportions of those with sustained virologic responses were 41 percent, 33 percent, and 13 percent, respectively. The overall safety profiles of the three treatment regimens were similar; the incidence of influenza-like symptoms and depression was lower in the groups receiving peginterferon alfa-2a than in the group receiving interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin.
Conclusions: In patients with chronic hepatitis C, once-weekly peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin was tolerated as well as interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin and produced significant improvements in the rate of sustained virologic response, as compared with interferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin or peginterferon alfa-2a alone.
Copyright 2002 Massachusetts Medical Society