BACKGROUND: Pegylated interferon (pegIFN) and ribavirin combination therapy remains the first-line treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. In contrast to the wealth of studies in treatment-naive patients, the effectiveness of retreatment in patients who have previously failed pegIFN-based therapy is largely unreported.
AIM: To assess the effectiveness of the retreatment of patients who have previously failed an initial course of pegIFN-based therapy with pegIFNα-2a and ribavirin.
METHODS: A post-hoc analysis of a multicentre open-label study was performed. Patients received pegIFNα-2a and ribavirin at a dose of 800 mg/day and later 1000 mg/day to 1200 mg/day for 24 to 48 weeks at the discretion of the investigator. Outcomes at week 12 (early virological response [EVR]) and week 24 (sustained virological response [SVR]) were analyzed.
RESULTS: Eighty-seven patients who had relapsed after previous pegIFN-based therapy (n=28; 78% genotype 1) or were nonresponders (n=59; 71% genotype 1) were analyzed. Of the relapsers, 86% achieved an EVR and 68% achieved an SVR. In relapsers to pegIFN monotherapy (n=15) or pegIFN plus ribavirin (n=13), 60% and 77% achieved an SVR, respectively. Fibrosis and genotype did not affect the likelihood of SVR in relapsers although this may be the result of the relatively small number of patients. In previous nonresponders, an EVR was achieved in 53% but an SVR occurred in only 17%. In nonresponders to pegIFN monotherapy (n=9) and pegIFN plus ribavirin (n=50), 33% and 14% achieved an SVR, respectively. Genotype did not affect SVR in nonresponders. Only 10% with a METAVIR score of F3 or F4 on liver biopsy achieved an SVR.
CONCLUSIONS: Relapse after previous pegIFN-based therapy is associated with a strong probability of treatment success whereas retreatment of those with previous nonresponse does not.