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Abstract

Improved treatment regimens for patients with chronic hepatitis C, genotype 1 and high viral load are needed. Increasing the dose of ribavirin has increased the response rate, but experience with doses of more than 1,200 mg/day is limited. The aim of this study was to investigate the safety and tolerance to treatment with a high and individualized dose of ribavirin in combination with peginterferon. Ten patients with chronic hepatitis C, genotype 1 and high viral load were treated with peginterferon alfa-2a and ribavirin for 48 weeks in a prospective trial. The initial ribavirin dose was individualized and calculated from a pharmacokinetic formula based mainly on renal function. Ribavirin plasma concentrations were monitored, and the dose was adjusted to reach the target concentration. Hemoglobin was monitored, and patients were treated with erythropoietin and blood transfusions when indicated. After dose adjustments, the mean dose of ribavirin was 2,540 mg/day (range, 1,600-3,600) at week 24. The main side effect was anemia, which was controlled with erythropoietin. Two patients required blood transfusions. One patient was withdrawn at week 24 because of a lack of viral response, and one patient at week 39 because of side effects, primarily interferon associated. At follow-up (≥24 weeks posttreatment), nine of ten patients had undetectable HCV RNA and thus were cured by standard definitions. In conclusion, a high dose of ribavirin according to an individualized schedule is feasible but associated with more frequent and serious side effects such as anemia. The viral response merits further evaluation. (HEPATOLOGY 2005;41:275–279.)