Children With Hepatitis C May Benefit From Ribavirin

Improved response for children treated with combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin

TUESDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The combination of pegylated interferon (PEG) plus ribavirin is better than PEG plus placebo for treating children infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a study published in the February issue of Gastroenterology.

Kathleen B. Schwarz, M.D., from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues compared the outcomes of HCV patients aged 5 to 17 treated with either PEG and ribavirin or PEG and placebo. Fifty-five children received PEG alfa-2a subcutaneously each week, plus 15 mg/kg of ribavirin orally twice a day, and 59 children were treated with PEG and placebo. The primary end point was sustained virological response (SVR) for at least 24 weeks after ceasing therapy.

The investigators found a significantly improved SVR with PEG and ribavirin compared to PEG and placebo. Of the children receiving PEG and ribavirin, 53 percent achieved SVR, compared to 21 percent receiving PEG and placebo. Compliance at the two-year follow up was 82 percent with PEG plus ribavirin and 86 percent for PEG plus placebo, and virologic response was 100 percent durable in both groups.

"These results indicate that children with chronic hepatitis C should not receive PEG monotherapy," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry, including Roche, which provided the medications for this study.

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