Peginterferon alpha-2b: a new approach to improving response in hepatitis C patients.
Chronic hepatitis C infection affects approximately four million Americans. Over the last decade, Type 1 interferons (IFNs) have been the mainstay of therapy for suitable patients. Recently, the combination of IFN plus ribavirin, with enhanced response rates, has replaced IFN monotherapy for treatment of these patients. The addition of a polyethylene glycol (peg) moiety to IFN alpha-2b has provided a drug with reduced clearance whilst retaining biological and antiviral activity. This formulation allows once-weekly dosing and enhances sustained response rates, without significantly changing the safety and tolerability of IFN. Clinical trials indicate a doubling of sustained virological response rates for regimens utilising pegIFN alpha-2b, compared with standard IFN-alpha 2b. The combination of pegIFN alpha-2b and ribavirin further increases the sustained virological response rates to > 50% for suitable patients. Future pegIFN alpha-2b studies will need to examine drug profiles in patients with co-morbid conditions (e.g., renal impairment, liver transplantation), as well as safety and efficacy issues in different ethnic groups. Further clinical trials are also required to determine the benefits of pegIFN alpha-2b in previous non-responders or relapse patients and as maintenance therapy to prevent disease progression. Finally, careful cost effectiveness analyses will need to be performed.
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