Although two pegylated interferons (Peg-IFN) are available to treat chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, no head-to-head comparative studies have been published. We aim to compare the efficacy and safety of PEG IFN alfa-2b (PEG 2b) versus PEG IFN alfa-2a (PEG 2a), plus ribavirin (RBV). A prospective, randomized, multi-center, open-label clinical trial including 182 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients naïve for HCV therapy was performed. Patients were assigned to PEG 2b (80-150 mug/week; n = 96) or PEG 2a (180 mug/week; n = 86), plus RBV (800-1200 mg/day) for 48 weeks. The primary endpoint was sustained virological response (SVR: negative HCV-RNA 24 weeks after completion of treatment). At baseline, both groups were well balanced: 73% male; 63% HCV genotype 1 or [corrected] 4; 29% had fibrosis index of 3 or greater. The overall SVR was 44% (42% PEG 2b versus 46% PEG 2a, P = 0.65). Among genotypes 1 or [corrected] 4, SVRs were 28% versus 32% (P = 0.67) and 62% versus 71% (P = 0.6) in genotypes 2 or [corrected] 3 for PEG 2b and PEG 2a, respectively. Early virological response (EVR; >or=2 log reduction from baseline or negative HCV-RNA at week 12) was 70% in the PEG 2b group and 80% in the PEG 2a group (P = 0.13), reaching a positive predictive value of SVR of 64% and a negative predictive value of 100% in both arms. Side effects were present in 96% of patients but led to treatment discontinuation in 10% of patients (8% on PEG 2b and 13% on PEG 2a, P = 0.47).
Conclusion: In patients with HIV, HCV therapy with PEG 2b or PEG 2a plus RBV had no significant differences in efficacy and safety.