A recent study has revealed that Hepatitis C (HCV), when treated with peginterferon and ribavirin, for shorter durations, can yield success rates similar to those from longer treatment lengths, with cost-savings and lower risk of serious side effects.
Peginterferon are natural proteins produced by the cells of the immune system and ribavirin is an anti-viral drug active against a number of DNA and RNA virus.
The study led by Alessandra Mangia of Italy's Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Casa Sollievo Della Sofferenza, in San Giovanni Rotondo conducted a randomised controlled trial of patients with HCV genotype 1.
The study included 696 patients, 237 of whom received standard HCV and 459 were treated for 24, 48, or 72 weeks.
The findings revealed that about 49 percent of patients receiving variable treatment based on detectable viral levels showed a persistent viral response, as 45 percent of patients in the standard group.
The patients who showed a viral response at week 4 were treated by a 24-week therapy and for those who did not show a response until week 12, 72 weeks of treatment was required for an approximately similar cure rate.
"In conclusion, variable treatment duration ensures a sustained viral response rate similar to that of standard treatment duration, with potential significant reduction in cost and side effects." the authors report.
Researchers in Norway also conducted similar trials on 428 patients with HCV genotype 2 or 3 to measure the success rate of 14 weeks of treatment with peginterferon plus ribavirin.
Patients who achieved a viral response after 4 weeks were randomly assigned to complete either 14 or 24 total weeks of treatment.
The study revealed that 81 percent of patients in the 14-week treatment group achieved a constant viral response, with 86 percent still cured at 24-weeks post-treatment.
About 91 percent of patients in the 24-week treatment group achieved a sustained viral response, with 93 percent still cured at 24-weeks post-treatment.
"We cannot formally claim that 14 weeks treatment is non-inferior to 24 weeks treatment," the authors conclude.
"However, the sustained viral response rate after 14 weeks treatment is high, and although longer treatment may give a slightly better sustained viral response rate, we believe considerable economical savings, good response to re-treatment and less side effects make it rational to treat patients with genotype 2 or 3 and rapid viral response for only 14 weeks," the authors said.
The findings appear in the January issue of Hepatology.