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Abstract

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients increasingly experience the consequences of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection. This trial randomized 107 patients coinfected with HIV and HCV to receive 48 weeks of interferon alfa-2b (IFN) 3 million units three times weekly plus either a full course of ribavirin (RBV) at 800 mg/day (group A; n = 53) or 16 weeks of placebo, followed by RBV (group B; n = 54). The primary endpoint of sustained viral response (SVR) rate (undetectable HCV RNA at posttreatment week 24) was not different between groups A (11.3%) and B (5.6%; P = .32). Within group A, the SVR rate was lower in genotype 1 (2.5%) than in genotypes 2 through 4 (41.7%; P = .002). Fifty-five patients discontinued therapy prematurely, mostly because of adverse events or patient decisions. At treatment week 12, the percentage of CD4+ cells rose in group A (+4.1%; P < .001), but not in group B (−0.3%). A significant proportion (22%) of patients who were HIV viremic at baseline had undetectable HIV RNA at week 12. By week 16, the hemoglobin level decreased more in group A (−2,52 g/dL) than in group B (−1.02 g/dL; P < .001). In group A, the hemoglobin decline was steeper in patients receiving zidovudine (azidothymidine [AZT], −3.64 g/dL vs. no AZT, −2.08 g/dL), and patients receiving zidovudine had more anemia-related RBV dose reductions (AZT, 60% vs. no AZT, 16%). In conclusion, HCV therapy with IFN plus RBV is relatively safe in patients coinfected with HIV and HCV, but frequent treatment discontinuations and anemia-related RBV dose reductions contribute to a poor SVR rate. Control of HIV infection improves rather than worsens during therapy. (HEPATOLOGY 2004;39:989–998.)