Background: In the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, regimens including pegylated interferon-α are superior to those including standard interferon; the present retrospective study was performed to verify whether the same is applicable to biopsy-proven recurrent hepatitis C (genotype 1b) after liver transplantation (OLT).
Methods: Twenty-four patients (16 male) were studied. Twelve had received interferon-α2b (IFN), 9 MU weekly and 12 received pegylated interferon-α2b (PEG-IFN), 0.5 µg/kg weekly. All had received oral ribavirin 600–800 mg/day. Treatment duration was intended for 12 months. A repeat liver biopsy, with evaluation of the Ishak grading and staging scores, was obtained at 1 year.
Results: Only 12/24 patients (50%) completed a full year of therapy; 17 (71%) experienced side-effects requiring a 50% dosage reduction or discontinuation of the IFN, PEG-IFN and/or ribavirin. This was observed in 6/12 patients (50%) treated with IFN in comparison to 11/12 patients (92%) treated with PEG-IFN (P < 0.05). The difference was mainly accounted for by anemia and leukopenia that were reported in 4/12 IFN patients (33%) versus 9/12 PEG-IFN patients (75%; P < 0.05), respectively. End-of-treatment viral response (ETVR) and histological response were always associated and occurred in 4/24 patients (17%), two in each treatment arm. Patients with ETVR were younger, had always completed 1 year of therapy, had had recurrent hepatitis later after transplantation and presented a higher baseline grading score.
Conclusions: In the OLT setting, the potential benefits of antiviral treatments including PEG-IFN may be limited by the poor tolerability of the adopted drugs.