New strategy recommended to combat hepatitis

Interferon efficacy increased if treatment prolonged beyond standard therapy

Alexandria, VA -- Only 20 to 30 percent of individuals with chronic hepatitis B recover when they are given the currently recommended treatment of alpha-interferon for a period of four months. A new study led by Harry L. Janssen, M.D., of the Erasmus University Hospital in Rotterdam shows that important increases in recovery are obtained by prolonging the therapy up to twice as long. The results of this large effort organized by the European Concerted Action on Viral Hepatitis (EUROHEP) appears in the July issue of HEPATOLOGY, the monthly peer-reviewed journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

More than 300 million patients worldwide and over one million in the United States are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus, Janssen says. Instead of treating patients with the alpha-interferon for the fixed four months used by most physicians, the EUROHEP group chose to modify the length of treatment based on the monthly measurements of hepatitis B virus in the blood. Janssen indicates that continuing therapy for up to eight months in patients who have a considerable decrease in the virus during the early treatments leads to a doubling of the beneficial response. It was also demonstrated that the unfavorable side effects of alpha-interferon treatment, such as fatigue, muscular pain, and depression, did not increase during the prolonged phase of therapy, Janssen notes. He strongly recommends that hepatitis B patients be offered this prolonged treatment, based on the measurement of viral markers in the blood during the initial phase of therapy.

The EUROHEP group research, which started in 1990, involved 19 hospitals in nine European countries. They recently implemented a new long-term study which combines both alpha-interferon and lamivudine, a new agent with a strong inhibitory activity against the virus but which i

Contact: Kirk Monroe
American Association For The Study of Liver Diseases

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