Interferon Responsiveness Does Not Change in Treatment-Experienced Hepatitis C Subjects: Implications for Drug Development and Clinical Decisions

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Background. The purpose of this research was to compare interferon (IFN) responsiveness in treatment-naive and pegylated interferon α-ribavirin (P/R)–experienced subjects and to understand the implications of comparability in IFN responsiveness across treatment courses on drug development and clinical decision making.Methods. Data from 3750 subjects treated with P/R in 8 trials were reviewed. The change in hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA at week 4 in response to P/R was compared according to end-of-study (EOS) status (responder, relapser, partial and null responder) for treatment-naive subjects and the previous P/R response status (known as prior relapsers, prior partial responders, and prior null responders at the baseline) for P/R-experienced subjects.Results. In subjects receiving a first course of P/R treatment (treatment-naive subjects), HCV RNA change after 4 weeks of P/R was correlated with EOS status on a P/R regimen. Importantly, for the first time, we have quantitatively demonstrated that IFN responsiveness in P/R-experienced subjects administered a second course of P/R treatment was similar to the IFN responsiveness in the treatment-naive subjects with corresponding EOS status.Conclusions. We contend that P/R-experienced subjects are represented within treatment-naive subjects. There are 2 important implications of this finding: (1) from a drug development perspective, a successful direct antiviral plus P/R therapy (IFN-based triple therapy) trial in P/R-experienced subjects may serve as supportive evidence in treatment-naive subjects; and (2) from a clinical decision perspective, previous P/R exposure should not alter new treatment decisions involving IFN-based triple therapy, as the IFN responsiveness to a second course of IFN is comparable.

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