Center for Hepatitis C, Atlanta Medical Center, Atlanta, GA; Graduate Medical Education Department, Atlanta Medical Center, Atlanta, GA; Medical College of Georgia, Department of Medicine, Augusta, GA; Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Atlanta, GA.
The new standard of care for treatment-naïve patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 includes triple therapy with peginterferon, ribavirin, and a protease inhibitor. However, patients who achieve a rapid virologic response after 4 weeks of peginterferon and ribavirin therapy are likely to achieve a sustained virologic response (SVR), and we hypothesized that protease inhibitor therapy may be unnecessary in these patients. Treatment-naïve, noncirrhosis patients infected with genotype-1 HCV and a low viral load at baseline were considered for inclusion (n = 233). After 4 weeks of lead-in therapy with peginterferon α-2b and ribavirin, 101 patients (48%) had a rapid virologic response (defined as undetectable levels of hepatitis C virus RNA at 4 weeks) and were eligible to participate. Patients were randomized 1:1 to 20 weeks of additional therapy with peginterferon α-2b and ribavirin (double therapy) or to 24 weeks of peginterferon α-2b, ribavirin, and boceprevir (triple therapy). There was no significant difference in rates of SVR-12 in patients treated with double versus triple therapy. This similarity persisted regardless of viral subtype (genotype 1a or 1b), interleukin (IL)-28b genotype (CC or non-CC), or ethnicity (African American versus non-Hispanic white). Conclusion: Protease inhibitor therapy could be obviated in genotype 1-infected treatment-naïve patients with low viral load at baseline who achieve undetectable viremia after 4 weeks of peginterferon/ribavirin.