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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis C;
  • drug dose;
  • early virologic response;
  • HCV RNA negativity;
  • pegylated interferon plus ribavirin;
  • sustained virologic response

Summary.  Chronic hepatitis C (CH-C) genotype 1 patients who achieved early virologic response have a high probability of sustained virologic response (SVR) following pegylated interferon (Peg-IFN) plus ribavirin therapy. This study was conducted to evaluate how reducing drug doses affects complete early virologic response (c-EVR) defined as hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA negativity at week 12. Nine hundred eighty-four patients with CH-C genotype 1 were enrolled. Drug doses were evaluated independently on a body weight base from doses actually taken. From multivariate analysis, the mean dose of Peg-IFN α-2b during the first 12 weeks was the independent factor for c-EVR (P = 0.02), not ribavirin. The c-EVR rate was 55% in patients receiving ≥1.2 μg/kg/week of Peg-IFN, and declined to 38% at 0.9–1.2 μg/kg/week, and 22% in patients given <0.9 μg/kg/week (P < 0.0001). Even with stratified analysis according to ribavirin dose, the dose-dependent effect of Peg-IFN on c-EVR was observed, and similar c-EVR rates were obtained if the dose categories of Peg-IFN were the same. Furthermore, the mean dose of Peg-IFN during the first 12 weeks affected HCV RNA negativity at week 24 (P < 0.0001) and SVR (P < 0.0001) in a dose-dependent manner. Our results suggest that Peg-IFN was dose-dependently correlated with c-EVR, independently of ribavirin dose. Thus, maintaining the Peg-IFN dose as high as possible during the first 12 weeks can yield HCV RNA negativity and higher c-EVR rates, leading to better SVR rates in patients with CH-C genotype 1.