A multicenter, open-label, phase 3 study was conducted in 337 patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection who had either not responded to previous interferon therapy or had relapsed after discontinuation of therapy with either consensus interferon (9 μg) or interferon α-2b (3 million U) three times a week for 24 weeks. Patients were randomized to receive a higher dose of consensus interferon (15 μg) administered subcutaneously three times a week for 24 or 48 weeks and then were observed for an additional 24 weeks. Patients who had relapsed after prior interferon therapy were more likely to have a sustained alanine aminotransferase response and HCV RNA response (as measured by reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction with a sensitivity of <100 copies/mL) than were patients who had not responded to prior interferon therapy. For relapsers, the sustained HCV RNA response rate was 58% (48 weeks) and 28% (24 weeks). The sustained alanine aminotransferase response for relapsers was 52% (48 weeks) and 39% (24 weeks). The sustained HCV RNA response rate among prior nonresponders was 13% (48 weeks) and 5% (24 weeks), and the sustained alanine aminotransferase response rate for nonresponders was 17% (48 weeks) and 12% (24 weeks). The administration of 15 μg of consensus interferon was well tolerated and was not associated with an increase in the incidence of side effects. These data demonstrate that re-treatment with 15 μg of consensus interferon is safe and effective therapy for patients with chronic hepatitis C who have either not responded to previous interferon therapy or relapsed after discontinuation of interferon therapy.
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