Background/aims: To evaluate the efficacy of peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin in unselected consecutive patients with chronic hepatitis C, treated outside of trials, who were relapsers or non-responders to interferon and ribavirin combination.
Methods: One hundred and fifty-four patients were evaluated. There were 101 non-responders and 53 relapsers to standard combination therapy. Patients were retreated with peginterferon alfa-2b 1.5 microg/kg/wk plus ribavirin 1000-1200 mg/day during 48 weeks.
Results: Forty-four patients (28.6%) achieved sustained virological response (SVR). Rapid (week 4) and early (week 12) virological response had high negative predictive values of SVR (94% and 97%, respectively); however positive predictive values were relatively low (52% and 49%, respectively). Relapsers had higher SVR rates (58.5%) than non-responders (13%) p<0.0001. In non-responders, SVR raised to 50% in patients with genotype non-1 and mild or moderate fibrosis. In multivariate analysis, predictors of SVR were: relapse after interferon plus ribavirin combination, mild or moderate fibrosis, genotype non-1 and baseline viral load <2 million copies/ml.
Conclusions: Relapsers to interferon plus ribavirin therapy, and non-responders with genotype non-1 and mild or moderate fibrosis, achieved a relatively high SVR rate following retreatment with peginterferon plus ribavirin. Early viral kinetics had a high negative predictive value of SVR.