Peginterferon alpha-2a and ribavirin versus peginterferon alpha-2a monotherapy in early virological responders and peginterferon alpha-2a and ribavirin versus peginterferon alpha-2a, ribavirin and amantadine triple therapy in early virological nonresponders: the SMIEC II trial in naïve patients with chronic hepatitis C

Mario Angelico, Beate Koehler-Horst, Paola Piccolo, Francesco Angelico, Silvia Gentile, Simona Francioso, Pierluigi Tarquini, Roberto Della Vecchia, Laura Ponti, Giampaolo Pilleri, Angelo Barlattani, Antonio Grieco, Francesco Soccorsi, Paolo Guarascio, Luigi Demelia, Orazio Sorbello, Zaccaria Rossi, Giuseppe Forlini, Salvatore Zaru, Franco Bandiera
European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2008, 20 (7): 680-7

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to compare the efficacy of anti-hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) treatment schedules on the basis of an early virological response (EVR), defined as undetectable serum HCV-RNA (<50 IU/ml) after a 12-week induction course of peginterferon alpha-2a (PEG-IFN) 180 mcg/week.

METHODS: A total of 210 interferon-naïve patients (69% male; median age, 42 years) with histologically proven chronic hepatitis C infection (genotype 1: 62%) received PEG-IFN 180 mcg/week for 12 weeks. Patients with EVR (58%) were randomized to continue PEG-IFN monotherapy (n=64) or to add ribavirin (RBV), 800 mg/day (n=57), for 36 additional weeks. Patients without EVR (42%) were randomized to add RBV (n=42), or RBV plus amantadine, 200 mg/day (n=47), for 36 additional weeks. Sustained virological response (SVR, undetectable HCV-RNA 24 weeks after treatment completion) was compared among treatment groups.

RESULTS: Patients with EVR: SVR rate was 60.3% in the PEG-IFN group versus 67.2% in the PEG-IFN+RBV group (NS). In genotypes 2/3, SVR rates were 66.7 versus 73.1% (NS); in genotypes 1/4, SVR rates were 51.6 versus 61.3%, respectively (NS). Patients without EVR: SVR was 16.7% in the PEG-IFN+RBV group versus 31.9% in the triple therapy group (P=0.07). In patients with genotypes 1/4, SVR rates were 9.4 versus 29.7% (P=0.041).

CONCLUSION: In genotypes 1/4 patients without EVR, triple therapy results in higher SVR rates than standard dual therapy. This study confirms that addition of amantadine is beneficial in early-recognized 'difficult-to-treat' patients.

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