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Reuters Health Information (2006-05-02): Peginterferon plus ribavirin treatment for hep C improved at 24 vs. 16 weeks


Peginterferon plus ribavirin treatment for hep C improved at 24 vs. 16 weeks

Last Updated: 2006-05-02 12:45:01 -0400 (Reuters Health)

LONDON (Agence de Presse Medicale for Reuters Health) - A major trial of patients with chronic hepatitis C (HCV) genotypes 2 and 3 has shown that 24 weeks of Roche's Pegasys (peginterferon alfa-2a) combined with Copegus (ribavirin) achieves consistently higher cure rates than shorter treatment times, the Swiss group said on Tuesday.

A total of 1,469 patients from eight countries were randomised to Pegasys 180 micrograms once a week plus Copegus (ribavirin) 800 mg daily for either 16 or 24 weeks, followed by 24 weeks of treatment-free follow up.

The findings, presented at the 41st annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL) in Vienna, showed that a sustained virological response (equivalent to cure) was observed in 76% of patients who received 24 weeks of treatment, compared with 65% of those who received a shorter duration of 16 weeks.

The incidence of adverse events was similar in the two groups, and patients were just as likely to stay on therapy for the full 24-week course of therapy as they were for 16 weeks.

Lead investigator Dr. Mitchell Shiffman, of Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, said: "Although three small studies have suggested that treating these patients for a shorter duration may be effective and some physicians have already adopted this approach, this large study has clearly demonstrated that patients with HCV genotypes 2 and 3, including those with a rapid virological response, really do need 24 weeks of treatment."

He added in a company statement: "With these results, doctors can be confident that they are treating their patients for the correct amount of time and give their patients the best chance for a cure."


Another study presented at the EASL conference confirmed that patients with HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B who are treated for one year with Pegasys can live without the burden of daily antiviral medications for at least two years after stopping therapy.

Results from a similar follow-up study in South East Asian patients showed that patients with HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B treated with Pegasys also kept their response after being off treatment for one year.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Graham Foster, University of London said: "This study has shown that for patients with the HBeAG-positive form of hepatitis B remission can be achieved with pegylated interferon alpha 2a, due to its effect on the immune system and the virus itself and that this response can be durable for at least one year after therapy has stopped."

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