Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2012; 35: 37–47


Background  The efficacy of individualised antiviral treatment durations for chronic hepatitis C remains unclear.

Aim  To evaluate treatment durations based on virological responses at week 4, 8 and 12 of peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin therapy.

Methods  Previously untreated patients with HCV genotypes, other than 2 or 3, initiated therapy with peginterferon alfa-2a 180 μg/week plus ribavirin 1000–1400 mg/day. HCV-RNA-negative patients at week 4 rapid virological response (RVR) were randomised to 24 or 48 weeks of treatment; those negative at week 8 were randomised to 36 or 48 weeks; and those who were negative or had a ≥2-log drop at week 12 were randomised to 72 or 48 weeks. Sustained virological response (SVR) was defined as undetectable HCV-RNA after 24 weeks of follow-up.

Results  The study was terminated prematurely due to lagging enrolment. Of 236 patients who started treatment, 195 were randomised at week 4 (= 50), 8 (= 61) or 12 (= 84). Ninety-five per cent of patients had genotype 1. SVR rates were not significantly different between patients randomised to 24 (84%) or 48 weeks (84%) at week 4, to 36 (73%) or 48 weeks (74%) at week 8, or to 48 (49%) or 72 weeks (40%) at week 12.

Conclusions  In this predominantly genotype 1 cohort, shortening therapy to 24 weeks in patients with a week-4 response and 36 weeks in those with a week-8 response produced SVR rates that were similar to a 48-week regimen. Lengthening treatment to 72 weeks did not improve SVR rates. Genotype 1 patients with RVR can be treated for 24 weeks ( NCT00483938).