The recommended treatment for chronic hepatitis C is a combination of pegylated interferon (PEG IFN) plus ribavirin (RBV). However, the sustained virological response (SVR) rate of PEG IFN-RBV therapy was approximately 50% in patients with genotype 1b and a high viral load. Thus, we compared the efficiencies and side-effects of PEG IFN-RBV and self-injected low-dose natural (n) IFN-α in patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV).Methods:
A prospective, multicenter, open-label study was conducted in 12 Japanese institutions. A total of 129 patients with chronic hepatitis C and no detectable HCV after 24–72 weeks of PEG IFN-RBV treatment were assigned to the control (n = 82) or treated (n = 47) group. Treated patients received 3 million units of nIFN-α 2–3 times/week over 96 weeks. The groups were compared regarding treatment efficiency and side-effects.Results:
Significant treatment success regarding virus negativation rates was found, with 89% and 73% for the treated and control groups, respectively (P = 0.039). In contrast, there was no difference in relapse rate between the groups 24 weeks after the 96-week nIFN-α treatment (P = 0.349). However, when early viral responders and late viral responders (LVR) were separated, LVR patients responded significantly to the treatment with 90% sustained virological response, compared to 53% for the control group (P = 0.044). The side-effects of nIFN-α were less than that of PEG IFN-RBV treatment.Conclusion:
Self-injected nIFN-α has larger benefits than prolonged PEG IFN-RBV for chronic hepatitis C patients with high viral loads of genotype 1b who fail to achieve early viral response during initial combination treatment.