To evaluate the efficacy and safety of human lymphoblastoid interferon treatment (interferon alfa) for patients with compensated cirrhosis caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, we randomly assigned 82 cirrhotic patients with chronic HCV infection (44 men, 38 women; mean age, 58.6 years) to two groups: 41 patients were treated with interferon alfa (480 million U over 6 months), and the other patients received no drug treatment. HCV RNA genotypes were determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing using type- specific primers. HCV RNA levels were measured by competitive PCR testing. No untreated patients eliminated HCV RNA from the serum or had a decrease in the level of alanine aminotransferase to normal during the observation period. Of the 34 patients who completed interferon alfa treatment, 6 (17.6%) who were considered complete responders eliminated HCV RNA from the serum by the end of treatment and sustained this elimination throughout a 6-month follow-up period. Complete responders constituted 6 (46.2%) of 13 patients with HCV RNA levels ≤105 copies/50 μL, but none of the 21 patients with levels >105 copies/50 μL were complete responders. Two (7.1%) of 28 patients with genotype 1b infection and 4 (66.7%) of 6 with genotype 2a were complete responders. Five patients withdrew because of interferon alfa-induced side effects (1 for thrombocytopenia, 3 for severe general malaise, and 1 for impotence), and 2 withdrew after being diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatic failure did not occur in any treated patient in the present study. These findings indicate that interferon alfa treatment is useful for compensated cirrhosis caused by HCV infection if the HCV RNA levels are low and the infection is of genotype 2a.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)