Background and Objective: The course of chronic hepatitis C in children is often mild or asymptomatic, but may lead to liver cirrhosis and neoplasm. The aim of our study was retrospective evaluation of treatment efficacy using pegylated interferon (IFN)-α2b with ribavirin in children and adolescents with chronic hepatitis C, both treatment naïve and re-treated.
Methods: The study comprised 79 patients with chronic hepatitis C ages 8 to 18 years (43 patients re-treated; 54 infected with genotype 1 hepatitis C virus and 25 with genotype 4), treated with pegylated IFN-α2b (1.5 μg · kg−1 · week−1) plus ribavirin (15 mg · kg−1 · day−1) for 48 weeks. The primary endpoint was sustained virologic response (SVR).
Results: Early viral response (EVR) was observed in 43.1% and end-of-treatment response in 47.9% of patients. In 44.3% of patients, SVR was achieved, which was maintained for at least the next 6 months. Patients not treated before significantly more frequently attained EVR, end-of-treatment response, and SVR (64%, 65.6%, and 63.9%, respectively) as compared with re-treated patients (30%, 33.3%, and 27.9%, respectively). Among 28 patients who attained EVR, 23 achieved SVR. In 2 patients, despite lack of EVR, SVR was observed. There were numerous adverse effects. They were not so severe as to discontinue therapy.
Conclusions: Combined therapy with pegylated IFN-α2b and ribavirin in patients with chronic hepatitis C, infected with hepatitis C virus genotypes 1 and 4, was more effective in treatment-naïve patients (63.9%) as compared with re-therapy cases (27.9%). SVR was maintained for at least the next 6 months in all of the patients. The applied treatment has limited efficacy and evokes numerous adverse effects; thus, search for new methods of treatment is mandatory.