Background: Patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 2 or 3 have sustained virologic response rates of approximately 80% after receiving treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin for 24 weeks. We conducted a large, randomized, multinational, noninferiority trial to determine whether similar efficacy could be achieved with only 16 weeks of treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a and ribavirin.
Methods: We randomly assigned 1469 patients with HCV genotype 2 or 3 to receive 180 mug of peginterferon alfa-2a weekly, plus 800 mg of ribavirin daily, for either 16 or 24 weeks. A sustained virologic response was defined as an undetectable serum HCV RNA level (<50 IU per milliliter) 24 weeks after the end of treatment.
Results: The study failed to demonstrate that the 16-week regimen was noninferior to the 24-week regimen. The sustained virologic response rate was significantly lower in patients treated for 16 weeks than in patients treated for 24 weeks (62% vs. 70%; odds ratio for 16 weeks vs. 24 weeks, 0.67; 95% confidence interval, 0.54 to 0.84; P<0.001). In addition, the rate of relapse (a detectable HCV RNA level during follow-up in patients who had undetectable HCV RNA at the end of treatment) was significantly greater in the 16-week group (31%, vs. 18% in the 24-week group; P<0.001). The sustained virologic response rates in patients with a pretreatment serum HCV RNA level of 400,000 IU per milliliter or less was 82% with the 16-week regimen and 81% with the 24-week regimen. Among patients with a rapid virologic response (an undetectable HCV RNA level by week 4), sustained virologic response rates were 79% in the 16-week group and 85% in the 24-week group (P=0.02).
Conclusions: Treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin for 16 weeks in patients infected with HCV genotype 2 or 3 results in a lower overall sustained virologic response rate than treatment with the standard 24-week regimen. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00077636 [ClinicalTrials.gov].).
Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.