Background & Aims: Treatment with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin produces a sustained virologic response (SVR) in approximately 60% of hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected patients. Alternate options are needed for patients who relapse or do not respond to therapy. Methods: This prospective, international, multicenter, open-label study evaluated efficacy and safety of peginterferon alfa-2b (1.5 μg/kg/wk) plus weight-based ribavirin (800-1400 mg/day) in 2333 chronic HCV-infected patients with significant fibrosis/cirrhosis whose previous interferon alfa/ribavirin therapy failed. Patients with undetectable HCV-RNA at treatment week (TW) 12 received 48 weeks of therapy; patients with detectable HCV-RNA at TW12 could enter maintenance studies at TW18; 188 patients with low/detectable HCV-RNA at TW12 continued therapy at the investigator's request. Results: Overall, 22% of the patients attained SVR (56% with undetectable HCV-RNA and 12% with low/detectable HCV-RNA at TW12). SVR was better in relapsers (38%) than nonresponders (14%), regardless of previous treatment, and in patients previously treated with interferon-alfa/ribavirin (25%) than peginterferon alfa-ribavirin (17%). Predictors of response in patients with undetectable HCV-RNA at TW12 were genotype (2/3 vs 1, respectively; odds ratio [OR] 2.4; P <.0001), fibrosis score (F2 vs F4; OR, 2.2; F3 vs F4; OR, 1.7; P <.0001), and baseline viral load (≤600,000 vs >600,000 IU/mL; OR, 1.4; P = .0223). These factors plus previous treatment and response were overall predictors of SVR. Safety was similar among fibrosis groups. Conclusions: Peginterferon alfa-2b plus weight-based ribavirin is effective and safe in patients who failed interferon alfa/ribavirin therapy. Genotype, baseline viral load, and fibrosis stage were predictors of response.
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