Treatment of histologically mild hepatitis C virus infection with interferon and ribavirin: a multicentre randomized controlled trial


Howard C. Thomas, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, 10th Floor QEQM Building, St Mary's Hospital, South Wharf Street, London W2 INY, UK.


Summary.  Current guidelines advocate no treatment for patients with histologically mild hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. This was a UK multicentre randomized controlled trial comparing α-interferon (3 MU thrice weekly) + ribavirin (1000–1200 mg/day) for 48 weeks with no treatment in treatment naïve, adult patients with histologically mild chronic HCV infection. The aim was to compare benefits, safety and efficacy of combination therapy with α-interferon 2b and ribavirin for 48 weeks with no treatment (current standard management) in this patient group. In the treatment group 32 of 98 (33%) patients achieved a sustained virological response (SVR). Patients infected with genotype 1 had a lower SVR than those infected with genotype non-1 (18%vs 49%P = 0.02). No patients who failed to achieve a 2-log drop in viral load at 12 weeks achieved SVR. Improvements in quality of life 24 weeks postcessation of therapy compared with baseline using the SF-36 questionnaire measures were observed in the treated group. For patients with mild HCV infection with viral genotype non-1, the results are sufficiently good to suggest that therapeutic decisions should no longer be biopsy-driven. For patients infected with genotype 1, a liver biopsy is still indicated as the low chance of SVR is outweighed by an unacceptable burden of side-effects. Patients who fail to respond by 12 weeks of therapy should have their treatment curtailed early.