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Keywords:

  • hepatitis C;
  • pegylated interferon;
  • polymerase chain reaction;
  • sustained virological response

Summary.  The combination treatment of peginterferon alpha-2a (PEG-IFN alpha-2a; Pegasys®) plus ribavirin (RBV) is recommended as a standard care for HCV infections. Side effects and aspects of efficacy and safety have to be balanced. This study evaluates clinical practice data on safety and efficacy of HCV treatment with PEG-IFN in combination with RBV over 24 and 48 weeks. This study was a phase III, multi-centre, open-label study with two treatment groups: PEG-IFN in combination with RBV for 24 or 48 weeks. The allocation to the treatment groups was at the discretion of the investigator; 309 patients entered active treatment: 90 patients received PEG-IFN plus RBV for 24 weeks and 219 patients PEG-IFN plus RBV for 48 weeks. A sustained virological response (SVR) was achieved in 48.9% of all patients. Genotype 1 patients with a 48-week combination treatment achieved an SVR of 39.9%. In the 48-week group a low baseline viral load was associated with a higher SVR rate (47.0% vs. 32.4%). For genotype 2 or 3 patients, the SVR was 67.9%. For these patients there was no relevant difference between patients with low and high viral loads; 97.7% of the patients experienced at least one adverse event. The incidence of serious adverse events was distinctly lower in the 24-week group (4.4% vs. 10.5%). This investigation confirms the well-known risk–benefit ratio found in controlled studies in a clinical practice setting. The safety profile is similar and shows the highest incidence of adverse events in the first 12 weeks of treatment.