*Departments of Pharmacology and †Virology, Amiens University Medical Center; ‡Virology Research Unit, EA 4294, Jules Verne University of Picardie; and §Department of Hepatogastroenterology, Amiens University Medical Center, Amiens, France.
The optimization of combination therapy with ribavirin (RBV) and pegylated interferon alpha has substantially improved sustained virologic response (SVR) rates and lowered virologic relapse rates in patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). In this study, we performed an analysis of the relationship between the end-of-treatment plasma RBV concentration and virologic relapse.
Thirty-four patients with HCV treated with pegylated interferon/RBV and with an end-of-treatment response were assayed for plasma RBV concentration using liquid chromatography assay coupled to tandem mass-spectrometric detection on the last day of the treatment. Clinical data and the concentration of RBV were compared between patients classified as either relapsers or nonrelapsers.
Eleven patients (32.4%) relapsed and 23 patients (67.6%) achieved an SVR. The mean plasma RBV concentration on the last day of treatment was 1380 ± 312 ng/mL for relapsers and 2278 ± 569 ng/mL for SVR patients (P < 0.0001). A receiver operating characteristic analysis showed that a threshold of 1960 ng/mL was associated with the greatest sensitivity and specificity (100% and 83%, respectively, with an area under the curve of 0.94; P < 0.0001) for discriminating between patients who relapsed and those who did not. A univariate logistic regression analysis indicated that a plasma RBV concentration of <1960 ng/mL at the end of the treatment was strongly associated with relapse (odds ratio, 55; 95% confidence interval, 7.24-∞; P = 0.0001) independently of age, body weight, RBV dose, baseline viral load, the interleukin-28B genotype, and response to previous courses of treatment.
Our study results highlight the relevance of measuring plasma RBV concentrations during and at the end of HCV treatment, with a view to avoiding virologic relapse.