Division of Digestive and Liver Diseases and Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY, USA; North Shore University Hospital at Forest Hills, Forest Hills, NY, USA.
The historical standard of care for patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) was peginterferon (PEG IFN) and ribavirin combination therapy, yielding sustained virological response (SVR) rates of 38-52% in HCV genotype 1 patients. This study evaluated a novel three-drug regimen of nitazoxanide and high-dose ribavirin as lead-in therapy, followed by PEG IFN-α-2a in triple therapy.
A prospective, open-label pilot study was conducted in treatment-naive patients with HCV genotype 1. Patients received nitazoxanide 500 mg twice a day for 2 weeks, then nitazoxanide plus ribavirin 1400 mg/day for 2 weeks, then nitazoxanide plus ribavirin plus PEG IFN-α-2a 180 μg weekly for 12 weeks, followed by ribavirin plus PEG IFN-α-2a for 12 weeks (48 weeks if HCV RNA negative after week 24). Primary outcome was SVR. Other outcomes included very rapid virological response (VRVR), rapid virological response (RVR), early virological response (EVR), end-of-treatment response (ETR), and safety and tolerability.
Thirty-three patients with a mean age of 46 years, detectable HCV RNA (64% with <600 000 IU/mL), and METAVIR fibrosis scores (F1:F2:F3) of 15%:49%:36% were enrolled. Outcomes were as follows: SVR, 67% (22/33); VRVR, 39% (13/33); RVR, 48% (16/33); EVR, 70% (23/33); and ETR, 67% (22/33). Most patients required at least one growth factor. Two patients discontinued because of adverse events.
This three-drug regimen was effective in achieving SVR in patients with HCV genotype 1. No patients relapsed, and the toxicity profile was favorable. Further studies on the role of nitazoxanide in the treatment of chronic HCV are warranted.