Aim: To analyze the efficacy and safety of a combination therapy of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) α-2b plus ribavirin (RBV) in older Japanese patients (65 years or older) infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Methods: This multicenter study included 938 patients with HCV genotype 1 who received 1.5 μg/kg per week PEG-IFN α-2b plus RBV 600-1000 mg/d for 48 wk and 313 HCV genotype 2 patients who received this treatment for 24 wk. Results: At 24 wk after the end of combination therapy, the overall sustained virological response (SVR) for genotypes 1 and 2 were 40.7% and 79.6%, respectively. The SVR rate decreased significantly with age in each genotype, and was markedly reduced in genotype 1 (P < 0.001). Moreover, the SVR was significantly higher in patients with genotype 1 who were less than 65 years (47.3% of 685) than in those 65 years or older (22.9% of 253) (P < 0.001) and was higher in patients with genotype 2 who were less than 65 years (82.9% of 252) than in those 65 years or older (65.6% of 61) (P = 0.004). When patients received a dosage at least 80% or more of the target dosage of PEG-IFN α-2b and 60% or more of the target dosage of RBV, the SVR rate significantly increased to 66.5% in patients less than 65 years and to 45.2% in those 65 years or older (P <0.001). Adverse effects resulted in treatment discontinuation more often in patients with genotype 1 (14.4%) than in patients with genotype 2 (7.3%), especially by patients 65 years or older (24.1%). Conclusion: PEG-IFN α-2b plus RBV treatment was effective in chronic hepatitis C patients 65 years or older who completed treatment with at least the minimum acceptable treatment dosage.
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