Background and aim: Currently, pegylated interferon is the most effective therapy for hepatitis C but its cost is out of reach of most patients in the developing countries. The aim of this study was to assess the response rate of genotype-4 patients to 24 wks of peg-interferon-alpha2b (Peg-IFN-alpha2b) and ribavirin (RBV) or interferon-alpha2b (IFN-alpha2b) with RBV and amantadine (AMD) as an alternative option.
Methods: In a controlled study, 180 biopsy-proven naïve chronic hepatitis C patients were allocated into three groups based on their financial affordability to any of the study regimens. Group I (control) comprised 40 patients who received Peg-IFN-alpha2b in a flat dose of 100 mug/wk (the dose available in Egypt) plus RBV 1,000-1,200 mg per day based on body weight for 48 wks. Group II comprised 70 patients who received the same regimen for 24 wks. Group III comprised 70 patients who received induction-dose triple therapy (IDTT) in the form of IFN-alpha2b 3 MU once daily for the first 4 wks then reduced to TIW for 20 wks plus RBV 1,000-1,200 mg per day based on body weight and AMD 100 mg twice daily for 24 wks. Six patients from group I, eight patients from group II, and four from group III discontinued the study either due to financial limitations and/or intolerable adverse effects of the drugs.
Results: Intention-to-treat analysis revealed that sustained virological response (SVR) achieved in 22 (55.0%), 34 (48.6%), and 20 (28.6%) in groups I, II, and III, respectively. Adherence-to-treatment analysis (80/80/80) revealed that SVR achieved in 22 (64.7%), 34 (54.8%), and 20 (30.3%) in groups I, II, and III, respectively. In absence of eradication of hepatitis-C-virus-RNA at week 12, there was virtually no chance of achieving SVR. These data collectively may indicate that genotype 4 is "not difficult to treat" as previously reported.
Conclusion: Response of genotype-4 patients to 24 wks of Peg-IFN-alpha2b/RBV did not significantly differ from 48 wks, but was significantly higher than IDTT. Although SVR achieved by IDTT is less than Peg-IFN-alpha, yet it might provide a second option when the latter is not affordable. Early virological response should be used as a predictor to SVR to avoid unnecessary expenses in nonresponders patients.