News from Hepatitis Week of August 31, 2003 / Vol. 3 No. 35
Study: Early Viral Response in Hepatitis C Treatment Predicts Long-Term Success

The level of sustained viral response that chronic hepatitis C patients have early on with interferon alpha-2b and ribavirin may predict their ultimate long-term success with this therapy, according to researchers.

Treating chronic hepatitis C with the combination drug therapy of interferon alpha-2b and ribavirin is successful less than 50 percent of the time. Being able to predict early whether patients will ultimately respond positively to such treatment would save on drug costs and help patients avoid unnecessary side effects.

In this study reported in the August issue of Gastroenterology, researchers wanted to see if a decrease in hepatitis C virus RNA after one week and four weeks of treatment with interferon alpha-2b and ribavirin could identify nonresponders.

The study involved 63 patients. Sustained viral response was achieved in 47.1 percent of patients after one week and and 47.3 percent of patients after four weeks of treatment.

Once the decline in viral load was known, the researchers said other characteristics such as the genotype, age, sex and viral load at the beginning of the study did not provide additional power in predicting treatment responses.

Early identification of patients who are likely to be nonresponders "allows therapy to be stopped early, without depriving any patient who would have an sustained viral response from treatment," the researchers concluded.

Other sources: Gastroenterology