Early virologic response to treatment with peginterferon alfa-2b plus ribavirin in patients with chronic hepatitis C

Hepatology. 2003 Sep;38(3):645-52. doi: 10.1053/jhep.2003.50364.


Interferon-based regimens for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C have become increasingly effective and are able to eradicate virus in more than one half of cases. Early identification of patients who will not respond is desirable because treatment might be stopped, thereby avoiding the expense and inconvenience of unnecessary therapy. We examined the accuracy of different degrees of viral inhibition during the early weeks of treatment (early virologic response [EVR]) with pegylated interferon alfa-2b and ribavirin (PEG/R) in identifying patients who would not respond to therapy. The best definition of EVR was a reduction in hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA by at least 2 logs after the first 12 weeks of treatment compared with baseline. Between 69% and 76% of patients achieved this threshold, depending on the treatment regimen, and sustained virologic response (SVR) occurred in 67% to 80% of these patients. Patients who did not reach EVR did not respond to further therapy. If treatment had been stopped in patients without EVR, drug costs would have been reduced by more than 20%. In conclusion, early confirmation of viral reduction following initiation of antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C is worthwhile. It provides a goal to motivate adherence during the first months of therapy and a milepost at which to reassess the need for continued treatment. Most patients who are able to complete the first 12 weeks of therapy achieve EVR and have a high probability of SVR. Patients who fail to achieve EVR will not clear virus even if an additional 9 months of therapy is received. Therapy can be confidently discontinued in those cases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / drug effects*
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha* / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyethylene Glycols*
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use*
  • Viral Load


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • RNA, Viral
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Ribavirin
  • peginterferon alfa-2b
  • peginterferon alfa-2a