Combination therapy with interferon alpha (IFN-α) and ribavirin for 24 or 48 weeks according to HCV genotype has improved the overall sustained virological response (SVR) rates to approximately 40%. The aim of this study was to investigate the long-term efficacy of combination therapy with IFN-α and ribavirin for chronic hepatitis C in Koreans. One hundred thirty-eight patients with chronic hepatitis C who received this combination therapy between 1995 and 2003 were analyzed retrospectively. All patients were treated with IFN-α 3-6 million units three times weekly in combination with 900-1200 mg/day of ribavirin for 24 weeks. The overall SVR rate was 41.3%. Patients were followed up for a median of 41 months (range, 12-105 months) after completion of therapy. In all of the SVR patients (57 patients), SVR was conserved during the follow-up period. None of the patients progressed to decompensated liver disease or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, 5 of the 81 non-SVR patients (6.2%) progressed to decompensated liver disease or HCC. In conclusion, combination therapy with IFN-α and ribavirin shows good long-term efficacy in patients with chronic hepatitis C in Korea, one of the highest endemic areas of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
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