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Pegylated-interferon and ribavirin in liver transplant candidates and recipients with HCV cirrhosis: systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective controlled studies


Andrew K. Burroughs, FRCP, Professor of Hepatology, Liver Transplantation and Hepatobililary Medicine, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, Hampstead, London NW3 2QG, UK. E-mail:


Summary.  Pegylated interferon with ribavirin (Peg/R) is the most effective therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) but its utility and effectiveness after liver transplantation has been difficult to assess. We evaluated efficacy, tolerability, and safety of Peg/R in liver transplant candidates and recipients with HCV cirrhosis. We searched medical databases and conference proceedings between January 1999 and January 2008 selecting randomized and nonrandomized studies. Primary end points meta-analytically were: (1) sustained viral response (SVR) and (2) histological response. Secondary end points were: (1) treatment discontinuation, (2) mortality, and (3) rejection episodes. Pegylated interferons using either 1–1.5 mcg/kg of pegylated interferon alpha-2b or 180 μg (pegylated interferon alpha-2a combined with ribavirin 800–1200 mg/day were the most effective compared to any other regimen or no therapy. In three pretransplant studies the median SVR was 19.6% (19.6–50%). In six postransplant studies where a meta-analysis was done the cumulative risk difference in SVR was 0.31% (95% CI, 0.18–0.44, p < 0.001). However histological response was not significantly better compared to no therapy or other antiviral regimens. There were no significant differences in discontinuation of therapy, acute or chronic rejection or mortality between optimal Peg/R vs no treatment or other regimens. Hence pegylated interferon plus ribavirin in full doses is effective pre and post transplant but has a low SVR rate. To date no significant histological improvement has been reported.