BACKGROUND AND AIMS
The efficacy of interferon (IFN)-based antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis C (CHC) varies depending on predictive factors such as hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype and viral load. For patients with good predictive factors, a low dose and short course of IFN-based therapy may be adequate. However, there is no evidence about the optimal duration of IFN-based therapy for these patients. The aim of this study was to clarify whether the duration of IFN therapy could be shortened to less than the conventional treatment period for patients with good predictive factors.
A total of 25 treatment-naive CHC patients with genotype 2a were randomized to receive either IFN monotherapy for 24 wks (group A: long-term IFN therapy, n = 13) or for 6 wks (group B: short-term IFN therapy, n = 12). Patients were monitored for HCV RNA and routine liver function tests during and following treatment, and data were examined according to intention-to-treat analysis.
Eleven of 13 patients in group A and all patients in group B completed IFN therapy according to the original planned schedule. At the end of the treatment, viral clearance occurred in all patients. However, 4 patients in group A and 5 in group B relapsed within 6 months of follow-up. There was no significant difference of sustained response rate between group A (53.8%) and group B (58.3%). Among patients who had HCV viral load of <100 kIU/ml, the sustained response rate was 83.3% (5/6) in group A and 100% (5/5) in group B.
In this study, our results suggest that the duration of IFN therapy can be shortened to less than 24 wks in patients with good predictive factors. Further studies, however, should examine the optimal regimen of IFN therapy based on the backgrounds of patients.