Prolonged treatment (2 years) with different doses (3 versus 6 MU) of interferon α-2b for chronic hepatitis type C. Results of a multicenter randomized trial

Giorgio Saracco, Elisabetta Borghesio, Pietro Mesina, Antonello Solinas, Claudia Spezia, Franco Macor, Vittorio Gallo, Livio Chiandussi, Carlo Donada, Valter Donadon, Fulvio Spirito, Alessandra Mangia, Angelo Andriulli, Giorgio Verme, Mario Rizzetto

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Background/Aims: To examine the effect of prolonged treatment with different doses of interferon α-2b on the relapse rate in patients with chronic hepatitis C. Methods: One hundred and seventy-one patients with non- cirrhotic chronic hepatitis C were enrolled in an Italian multicenter trial. All patients were treated for 3 months with 3 000 000 Units (3 MU) of interferon α-2b given subcutaneously three times a week (t.i.w.). Patients with abnormal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values were given 6 MU of interferon for an additional 3 months. If ALT remained persistently abnormal, therapy was then suspended. If ALT levels were normal, therapy was continued (6 MU t.i.w.) for an additional 18 months (total=2 years). Patients with normal ALT were randomly assigned to two groups, one receiving 3 MU and the other receiving 6 MU t.i.w. for an additional 21 months (total=2 years). Follow-up continued for 2 years after therapy withdrawal. Results: Seven patients stopped treatment during the first 3 months. Of the remaining 164 patients, 76 (46%) showed abnormal ALT levels after 3 months of therapy: 11 of these (14%) normalized ALT values when given 6 MU and a sustained response was maintained in eight during the follow-up. Overall, 54 and 34 patients were allocated respectively to the groups receiving the 3 MU and 6 MU long- term treatment. At the end of therapy, 35/54 patients of the group 3 MU and 21/34 patients of the group 6 MU showed normal ALT levels (65% vs 62%, p=N.S.). After 2 years of follow-up, 24/35 (69%) patients of the group 3 MU and 16/21 (76%) of the group 6 MU were still in remission (p=N.S.). In an intention-to-treat analysis, 48/171 (28%) patients showed a long-term response (normal ALT values, HCV-RNA negative). About 65% of the sustained responders showed low baseline viremia compared with 33% of non-responders (p=0.005) while genotype 1b was more frequently found among non-responders than in long-term responders (84% vs 25%, p=0.0001). Conclusions: About 14% of patients who do not respond to a 3-month course of 3 MU of interferon normalize ALT levels when given 6 MU. In prolonged treatment, there is no significant difference between 3 and 6 MU in inducing a sustained response. Patients with low baseline viremia and genotype 2a respond significantly better to prolonged interferon therapy than highly viremic patients with genotype 1b.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-62
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1997


  • Chronic hepatitis C
  • Genotype
  • Interferon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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