Combination therapy (Interferon plus ribavirin) is the current therapeutic gold standard for naive Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)-positive patients and with the recent advent of pegylated (PEG) IFN the rate of the sustained virological response (HCV-RNA clearance 6 months after the end of treatment) is about 54%-56% with a therapeutical gain mainly among patients with unfavourable HCV genotype (1a, 1b); in this subset of patients, a 42%-46% sustained response rate is achieved compared with 33%-36% found among genotype 1 patients treated with the standard therapy. Patients who respond to IFN monotherapy but relapse during the follow-up should be re-treated with combination therapy given for at least 6 months at the minimum dose of 3 MU thrice weekly plus ribavirin 1000 mg / daily. Recent data suggest that prolonging the time of treatment (12 months) may induce a significantly higher rate of sustained response among patients with genotype 1. The efficacy of the combination of IFN and ribavirin in retreating patients with chronic hepatitis C not responding to IFN monotherapy is controversial as it ranges between 0% and 40%. Recent data show an overall rate of sustained response of 23% when an aggressive approach is adopted but increasing the dosage and the time of treatment induces a significant therapeutic benefit only in patients with genotype 1. In conclusion, a therapeutic progress for chronic hepatitis C has been achieved during the last 10 years (56% vs 20% of sustained response rate obtained with IFN monotherapy) but several unresolved issues are yet to be addressed.
Keywords: chronic hepatitis c, Interferon, peg Interferon, ribavirin, relapsers, non responders
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