Pegylated Interferon Affects Growth, BMI in Children

Effects on weight-for-age and BMI generally reversible with cessation of therapy

THURSDAY, Aug. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Pegylated interferon alpha-2a (Peg-IFN-α2a) treatment is linked to significant changes in body weight, linear growth, body mass index (BMI), and body composition in children treated for hepatitis C, according to a study published in the August issue of Hepatology.

Maureen M. Jonas, M.D., from the Children's Hospital Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from 114 children with hepatitis C treated with peg-IFN-α2a ± ribavirin in the Pediatric Study of Hepatitis C trial who underwent anthropometric measurements and dietary and activity assessments during and after treatment. The children (55 percent male) were randomized into three groups according to the duration of treatment: 24 weeks (14 children), 48 weeks (82 children), or 72 weeks (11 children).

The researchers found that children (mean age of 11 ± 3 years) in all groups experienced decrements of up to 0.50 z score for weight, height, and BMI while on therapy, compared to baseline (P ≤ 0.01). One-third of subjects in the 48-week treatment group (33 percent) had greater than 0.50-unit decrement in height-for-age z (HAZ) score. After cessation of therapy, weight-for-age and BMI z scores retuned to baseline; however, the mean HAZ score was slower to rebound and was still lower than baseline at 96 weeks post-therapy for the long-treatment duration group, and lower than baseline in most children treated for 48 weeks. With therapy, percent body fat, fat-free mass z scores, and triceps skinfold z scores decreased, but dietary energy intake and levels of physical activity did not change during treatment.

"Peg-IFN-α2a was associated with significant changes in body weight, linear growth, BMI, and body composition in children," the authors write.

Support and study medications were provided by Hoffmann-La Roche.

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