Combination therapy with interferon-alpha and ribavirin for hepatitis C: practical treatment issues.
Collier J., Chapman R.
Combination therapy with ribavirin and interferon (IFN)-alpha for 6 to 12 months is currently the treatment of choice for chronic hepatitis C infection. The overall sustained response rate to treatment, defined as loss of hepatitis C virus (HCV) from serum 6 months after completion of treatment, is 40%. The indications for treatment are serum HCV RNA positivity, abnormal serum transaminases and the presence of portal fibrosis and/or moderate/severe inflammation. Response rates are lower in genotype 1 than in genotype 2 or 3 and in the presence of a high viral load. Anaemia is the most common adverse event and is due to ribavirin; neuropsychiatric adverse effects due to IFNalpha lead to premature cessation of therapy in 10 to 20% of patients. The current recommended dose of interferon is 3MU given subcutaneously 3 times a week. However, it is likely that longer-acting pegylated interferons, which may be more effective and can be administered once weekly, will in the future replace currently used IFNalpha.