Efficacy and safety of combination therapy with interferon-α2b and ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C in HIV-infected patients

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ObjectivesTo evaluate the efficacy and safety of a combination therapy of interferon-α2b (IFN) and ribavirin for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C in HIV-seropositive patients.DesignOpen prospective trial.MethodsTwenty patients co-infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV, with a mean CD4 cell count of 350 ± 153 × 106/l were treated with IFN (3 MU three times per week) in combination with ribavirin (500 mg or 600 mg twice a day) for 6 months. Tolerance and efficacy were monitored at weeks 12 (month 3) and 24 (month 6). The primary endpoint was a complete virological response, as defined by the lack of detectable HCV RNA in serum.ResultsBaseline values of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were 121 ± 72 IU/l and 75 ± 67 IU/l, respectively. The total Knodell score was 10.4 ± 2.4, with nine patients showing histological evidence of active cirrhosis (45%). All patients exhibited circulating HCV RNA. The treatment was well tolerated, with no impact on the course of HIV infection. After 6 months of combination therapy with IFN and ribavirin, 10 patients (50%) exhibited no further detectable HCV RNA viraemia, seven of whom achieved undetectable viraemia at month 3. Levels of ALT and AST decreased after 6 months of treatment from a mean of 121 ± 72 to 51 ± 40 IU/l and from a mean of 129 ± 58 IU/l to 68 ± 61 IU/l, respectively (P < 0.0002 and P < 0.0001).ConclusionOur results indicate that combination therapy with IFN and ribavirin is effective in 50% of cases in clearing serum HCV RNA and may thus provide effective means of therapy in HIV–HCV-coinfected patients as initial treatment or in patients who have previously failed IFN monotherapy.

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