Acute pancreatitis associated with interferon and ribavirin therapy in patients with chronic hepatitis C

Dig Dis Sci. 2004 Jun;49(6):1000-6. doi: 10.1023/b:ddas.0000034562.17003.50.


Acute pancreatitis is a rare complication of interferon (IFN) and ribavirin (RBV) therapy. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence, clinical presentation, and outcome of acute pancreatitis in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection treated with IFN and RBV combination therapy. We conducted a retrospective review of 1706 HCV-infected patients treated with IFN alpha-2b and RBV. The diagnosis of drug-induced acute pancreatitis was made based on the presence of epigastric pain, elevated amylase and lipase levels, and the absence of other identifiable causes of pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis was diagnosed in 7 of 1706 HCV-infected patients (0.4%; 95% CI, 0.2 to 0.8%) who were treated with IFN alpha-2b and RBV. The mean age of the patients (four males and three females) was 51.4 +/- 4.7 years and the median duration of therapy prior to development of pancreatitis was 12.0 weeks (range, 4.0-21.0 weeks). All patients presented with epigastric pain associated with nausea, vomiting, and/or fever. The median amylase and lipase values at the time of diagnosis of pancreatitis were 330.0 U/L (range, 182.0-1813.0 U/L) and 500.0 U/L (range, 171.0-2778.0 U/L), respectively. IFN and RBV were discontinued in all patients at the time of diagnosis and six of the seven patients were hospitalized; one patient refused hospital admission. Pancreatitis resolved in all seven patients and none of these individuals had recurrent pancreatitis during a median follow-up of 18.0 months (range, 3.0-27.0 months). In conclusion, IFN and RBV combination therapy is a potential cause of drug-induced pancreatitis in patients with chronic HCV. In these individuals, pancreatitis is often severe enough to warrant hospital admission, although symptoms resolve promptly after discontinuation of antiviral therapy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / administration & dosage
  • Interferon-alpha / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatitis / chemically induced*
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ribavirin / administration & dosage
  • Ribavirin / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Ribavirin