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Previous studies of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment have demonstrated variations in response among racial and ethnic groups including poorer efficacy rates among African American and Hispanic patients. The individualized dosing efficacy vs flat dosing to assess optimaL pegylated interferon therapy (IDEAL) trial enrolled 3070 patients from 118 United States centres to compare treatment with peginterferon (PEG-IFN) alfa-2a and ribavirin (RBV) and two doses of PEG-IFN alfa-2b and RBV. This analysis examines treatment response among the major racial and ethnic groups in the trial. Overall, sustained virologic response (SVR) rates were 44% for white, 22% for African American, 38% for Hispanic and 59% for Asian American patients. For patients with undetectable HCV RNA at treatment week 4, the positive predictive value of SVR was 86% for white, 92% for African American, 83% for Hispanic and 89% for Asian American patients. The positive predictive values of SVR in those with undetectable HCV RNA at treatment week 12 ranged from 72% to 81%. Multivariate regression analysis using baseline characteristics demonstrated that treatment regimen was not a predictor of SVR. Despite wide-ranging SVR rates among the different racial and ethnic groups, white and Hispanic patients had similar SVR rates. In all groups, treatment response was largely determined by antiviral activity in the first 12 weeks of treatment. Therefore, decisions regarding HCV treatment should consider the predictive value of the early on-treatment response, not just baseline characteristics, such as race and ethnicity.