Some African-Americans 19 percent did respond to the drug combination of peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin. But in non-Hispanic whites with the same disease, the hepatitis C genotype 1 virus strain, 52 percent had no evidence of the virus in their blood six months after completing the drug therapy one of the highest response rates ever reported for this therapy. The study showed the difference in infection rates between the two groups is not responsible for the low response rate to treatment in African-Americans.
"This study definitively proves that the difference in response rate is not due to the higher rate of genotype 1 infection in African-Americans," said Andrew Muir, M.D., lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center. The results were published May 27, 2004, in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Muir recommends African-Americans consult their physicians about the decision to receive treatment for hepatitis C.
"These results should be discussed with African-American patients with hepatitis C. However, we must also let patients know that some African-Americans did respond to therapy, and African-American patients should continue to be considered for treatment," said Muir, a gastroenterologist.
The prospective study followed 100 African-American and 100 non-Hispanic white chronic hepatitis C patients during 48 weeks of drug treatment. The majority of both patient groups, 98 percent, had hepatitis C genotype 1, which has a lower response rate to treatment than other hepatitis C genotypes. This virus strain is the most common form of the hepatitis C in the United States and is the most difficult to treat, Muir said. An estimated 4 million people in th
Contact: Becky Oskin
Duke University Medical Center