Open, randomized, multicentre italian trial on PEG-IFN plus ribavirin versus PEG-IFN monotherapy for chronic hepatitis C in HIV-coinfected patients on HAART

Antonietta Cargnel, Elena Angeli, Annalisa Mainini, Guido Gubertini, Riccardo Giorgi, Monica Schiavini, Piergiorgio Duca
Antiviral Therapy 2005, 10 (2): 309-17

BACKGROUND: Chronic hepatitis C is common and aggressive in HIV-positive patients, so the development of a well-tolerated HCV therapy is a priority. We evaluated the efficacy and safety of pegylated interferon alpha2b (PEG-IFN) plus ribavirin (RBV) versus PEG-IFN monotherapy in HIV/HCV-coinfected patients undergoing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and analysed the predictive factors of response.

METHODS: An Italian, multicentre, open-label trial including 135 coinfected patients, randomized to PEG-IFN 1.5 microg/kg/week plus RBV 400 mg twice daily (n=69, arm A) or PEG-IFN 1.5 microg/kg/week (n=66, arm B) for 48 weeks. We assessed the predictive values of early virological response (EVR) at week 8 (HCV-RNA drop >2 log10 compared with baseline or undetectable levels) on sustained virological response (SVR).

RESULTS: Fifty-five patients (28 from arm A and 27 from arm B) completed 48 weeks of therapy. At the end of treatment, 20/28 patients in arm A and 11/27 in arm B had HCV-RNA <50 IU/ml. In a per-protocol analysis, SVR was reached by 54% of patients in arm A (genotype 2-3, 11/16; genotype 1-4, 4/12) and 22% in arm B (genotype 2-3, 3/15; genotype 1-4, 3/12). In an intention-to-treat analysis, the SVR was 22% in arm A (genotype 2-3, 11/32; genotype 1-4, 4/37) versus 9% in arm B (genotype 2-3, 3/32; genotype 1-4, 3/34). The best predictors of SVR were the use of combination therapy, infection with HCV genotype 3 versus genotype 1, and EVR at week 8. Thirty patients (15 from arm A and 15 from arm B) dropped out of the trial prematurely due to side effects. The positive predictive value of EVR at week 8 was 65%, the negative predictive value was 86%.

CONCLUSIONS: PEG-IFN plus RBV can be considered a solid option for the treatment of HIV/HCV-coinfected patients. The key to successfully improving efficacy is strong compliance through strict overall patient monitoring, in order to best manage drug toxicity. EVR assessment at week 8 may become a useful stategy in the management of therapy.

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