Combination of ribavirin and interferon-alfa surpasses high doses of interferon-alfa alone in patients with genotype-1b–related chronic hepatitis C



The purpose of this study was to compare interferon-alfa alone (12-month course with high initial doses) with a combination of interferon-alfa and ribavirin in patients infected with genotype 1b. Three hundred and seven patients were randomized into 3 groups to receive 6 mega units (MU) of interferon-alfa-2b subcutaneously 3 times weekly for 6 months followed by 3 MU for 6 months (n = 95, group A); 10 MU for 3 months followed by 6 MU for 3 months, followed by 3 MU for 6 months (n = 83, group B); or the group-A schedule in combination with ribavirin (n = 129, group C) for 4 (n = 46), 6 (n = 44), or 12 months (n = 39). Negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was more frequent in group C than in groups A or B after 3 months of treatment (P< .006), at the end of treatment (P= .017), and at the end of follow-up (32.8%, 16.9%, and 14.1%, respectively, P< .003). A complete response (negative PCR and normal alanine transaminase) was higher in group C than in the other groups and when comparing 12- to 4- and 6-month combination therapy at the end of treatment (P = .05) and of follow-up (45.2% vs. 25.4%, respectively, P = .05). The greater efficacy of the combination was related to the higher rate of primary virological response and also to a decrease in the percentage of breakthrough and of relapse. In 1b-infected patients, the combination of high doses of interferon-alfa (6 MU) and ribavirin for 12 months appears to be the best therapy, with a high rate of sustained response.