Re-treatment with interferon alfa of patients with chronic hepatitis C



Treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis C has had limited success because of relapses and nonresponse to interferon alfa therapy (currently the only established therapeutic agent). A retrospective study was done to determine the efficacy of re-treatment with interferon and the predictors of response in patients who failed to achieve sustained response after one standard course of interferon therapy (3 million units three times a week for 24 weeks). One hundred and eleven patients (47 relapsers and 64 nonresponders), mean age 45 years, were included in the study. Eighteen relapsers and 13 nonresponders received a higher dose (5 MU), and 11 relapsers and 6 nonresponders received a longer duration (48 weeks) of interferon therapy. The remaining patients received the same regimen as the first treatment. Eighty-one percent and 23% of relapsers and nonresponders, respectively, had an end-of-treatment response, and 19% and 3% of the corresponding patient groups had a sustained response to re-treatment. Two patients with breakthrough during their first treatment were the only nonresponders with sustained response after re-treatment. Sustained response was observed only in patients who received an increased dose or duration of interferon therapy. No predictor of sustained response was found. In conclusion, sustained response to re-treatment with interferon was only observed with augmentation of dose or duration of therapy in some relapsers and patients who had breakthrough. Established predictors of response to interferon in naive patients, in particular serum hepatitis C virus RNA and genotype, were not associated with sustained response to re-treatment.