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Keywords:

  • combination therapy;
  • health-related quality of life;
  • persistently normal ALT levels;
  • peginterferon α-2a;
  • ribavirin

Abstract

Background:  Peginterferon α-2a (40 kDa) plus ribavirin is equally effective in chronic hepatitis C patients with normal or elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values. This analysis, in patients with normal ALT levels, compared health-related quality of life (HRQoL) measurements between untreated control patients and treated patients grouped by virological response. HRQoL in the present population was also compared with HRQoL in patients with elevated ALT levels, observed in a previous study.

Methods:  A total of 491 patients with persistently normal ALT levels were randomized to peginterferon α-2a (40 kDa)/ribavirin for 24 (group A) or 48 weeks (group B) or no treatment for 72 weeks (group C). Quality of life was assessed with valid instruments (self-administered Short Form (SF)-36 Health Survey and Fatigue Severity Scale).

Results:  In groups A and B, patients with sustained virological responses after combination therapy had significantly better quality of life and less fatigue than patients without sustained responses. Differences were significant for five SF-36 domains, the SF-36 Physical Component score and both Fatigue Severity Scale scores. Viral clearance was not observed in any untreated patients (group C). Comparison with data from elevated ALT patients revealed little difference in baseline quality of life, although normal ALT patients had significantly higher scores related to mental health than elevated ALT patients.

Conclusions:  Eradication of HCV with peginterferon α-2a (40 kDa) plus ribavirin is associated with better quality of life and less fatigue in normal ALT patients. These patient benefits, coupled with the high probability of eradicating HCV, should be considered in making decisions about treating this population.