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Prolongation of HCV Treatment to 18 Months Reduces Relapse Rates From 40 to 15 Percent

Treatment of chronic hepatitis C with interferon can be ineffective due to relapse. We aimed to reduce the 40% relapse rate of 6 months interferon–ribavirin combination therapy by prolonging treatment to 18 months.

Three hundred patients with treatment-naive hepatitis C, were randomized to 18 months combination therapy with interferon (3 MU tiw) and ribavirin (1000–1200 mg/day), 18 months interferon combined with placebo, or 6 months combination therapy with interferon and ribavirin, in a double blinded manner. All 295 patients who received at least one dose of treatment were included in the intention to treat analysis.

At the end of treatment, HCV RNA was undetectable in 55 and 49% of those on 6 and 18 months combination therapy, respectively, versus 26% of those on monotherapy (P<0.001). The relapse rate was 38% for 6 months combination therapy, 38% for 18 months monotherapy, and only 13% for 18 months combination treatment (P=0.002). The sustained response rates were 34% for 6 months combination therapy, 16% for 18 months monotherapy and 43% for 18 months combination therapy (P<0.05).

Reduction of relapse rates to 15% or less is feasible by prolongation of interferon–ribavirin treatment to 18 months.

J T Brouwer and others. Reduction of relapse rates by 18-month treatment in chronic hepatitis C. A Benelux randomized trial in 300 patients. Journal of Hepatology 40(4): 689-695. April 2004.

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