A pilot study of ribavirin and interferon beta for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C

Gastroenterology. 1993 Aug;105(2):507-12. doi: 10.1016/0016-5085(93)90727-t.


Background: Chronic hepatitis C is a common and often progressive liver disease for which interferon alfa therapy widely spreads, but the beneficial response is frequently transient. Ribavirin is a nucleoside analog with a broad spectrum of antiviral action, and we investigated the efficacy of it in patients with chronic active hepatitis C.

Methods: We conducted a pilot study of oral ribavirin in patients with chronic active hepatitis C. Twenty-seven patients with hepatitis C virus RNA were randomly assigned to receive either 0.8-1.0 g of ribavirin daily or 3 MU of interferon beta three times weekly or combination of the two for 24 weeks.

Results: Ribavirin was tolerated well, and all completed the treatment schedule. Ribavirin decreased aminotransferase levels in all instances, and the mean value at termination decreased to half of the baseline level (P < 0.01), but the enzyme level increased after cessation of therapy in most cases. Ribavirin suppressed amounts of hepatitis C virus RNA in 4 of 9 patients, and 1 became negative during follow-up. Interferon alone (P < 0.05) or with ribavirin (P < 0.01) significantly decreased the viral population, resulting in sustained loss of viremia with normal enzyme levels in 2 of 9 and 3 of 9 patients, respectively, in each therapy during follow-up.

Conclusions: These results indicate that ribavirin has a beneficial effect in some patients with chronic hepatitis C, although the antiviral effect is less than interferon beta. Large-scale trials are needed to determine whether the combination of interferon and ribavirin is of more benefit than interferon alone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis C / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C / metabolism
  • Hepatitis C / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-beta / adverse effects
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Ribavirin / adverse effects
  • Ribavirin / therapeutic use*


  • RNA, Viral
  • Ribavirin
  • Interferon-beta