Duration of peginterferon therapy in acute hepatitis C: A randomized trial

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Spontaneous resolution of acute hepatitis C virus infection cannot be predicted, and chronic evolution of the disease occurs in a majority of cases. To assess the efficacy and safety of peginterferon alpha-2b administered for 8, 12, or 24 weeks in patients with acute hepatitis C virus infection a total of 161 patients were identified with acute hepatitis C virus infection. Of these, 30 patients refused treatment but were retained in the study as a nonrandomized comparison group. Of the 131 patients who consented to treatment, 29 patients spontaneously resolved, leaving 102 patients randomly assigned to peginterferon alpha-2b (1.5 μg/kg) for 8 weeks (group A; n = 34), 12 weeks (group B; n = 34), and 24 weeks (group C; n = 34). The primary end point was sustained virologic response. An intent-to-treat analysis was used for efficacy and safety end points. Sustained virologic response was achieved in 23/34 (67.6%), 28/34 (82.4%), and 31/34 (91.2%) of patients in groups A, B, and C, respectively; all had undetectable hepatitis C virus RNA 48 weeks after the end of therapy. Treatment for 8 or 12 weeks was effective in genotypes 2, 3, and 4, whereas genotype 1 required 24 weeks of therapy. The 8- and 12-week regimens were associated with fewer adverse events compared with the 24-week regimen.In conclusion, peginterferon alpha-2b effectively induces high sustained virologic response rates in patients with acute hepatitis C virus infection, thus preventing development of chronic hepatitis C. Duration of treatment should be further optimized based on genotype and rapid virologic response at week 4. (Hepatology 2006;43:923–931.)

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