Chronic hepatitis C in HIV infection: feasibility and sustained efficacy of therapy with interferon alfa-2b and tribavirin

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BackgroundThe role combination therapy with interferon alfa-2b and tribavirin (US: ribavirin) plays in producing sustained virological responses in patients with HIV and chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection is still unknown.ObjectivesTo determine the feasibility and sustained response of interferon alfa-2b and tribavirin combination therapy.DesignPhase II study.MethodsSeventeen patients were enrolled at the National Cancer Institute, Aviano, Italy and received combination therapy with interferon alfa-2b 3 MIU subcutaneously three times a week plus tribavirin 1000–1200 mg/day for 24 weeks. Antiretroviral therapy was concomitantly given in all but one patient.ResultsAt the end of treatment, five (31%) patients achieved clearance of HCV RNA and 11 (69%) showed normalized liver function enzyme levels. In three patients, serum HCV RNA concentration was still undetectable 24 weeks after treatment, with an overall sustained virological response rate of 19% The serum liver enzymes were still normal in 10 patients 24 weeks after treatment, the overall sustained biochemical response rate being 62% All patients with HCV RNA clearance at the end of treatment and 24 weeks after treatment had a concomitant biochemical response. Overall the combination treatment was well tolerated.ConclusionsOur data confirm that the combination of interferon alfa-2b and tribavirin is well tolerated and feasible in patients with HIV–HCV co-infection and it can be associated safely with highly active antiretroviral therapy. The sustained response achieved with the drug combination does not seem to be any better than that achieved with 12 months of monotherapy with interferon alfa-2b.

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