Ribavirin belongs to a class of drugs called nucleoside analogues, which includes some anti-HIV drugs such as AZT (zidovudine). Ribavirin used alone does not have any effect on HCV but in combination with interferon it appears to boost the immune system and help slow virus replication.
The researchers were measuring failure to respond adequately to treatment under each course of treatment.
In tests for presence of the virus among those who had never been treated for the disease, 83 percent of those on interferon did not respond after six months, compared to 58 percent of those getting interferon plus ribavarin.
Among those who had relapsed after previous treatment 87 percent of interferon-only patients did not respond, compared to 51 percent who were on combination therapy.
Of the patients who had not responded at all to previous therapy, 95 percent of the interferon patients did not respond, compared to 81 percent of those getting both drugs.
Other measures reported by the researchers included patient status at the end of treatment, quality of life and whether patients had a reduction in liver inflammation. Patients who had combination therapy did better in all categories. Side effects, however, were much more common in the combination therapy across all groups than in the interferon-alone group.
The most frequent side effect was anemia, which occurred in 22 percent of cases of combination recipients and less than 1 percent of the interferon group. Other side effects that occurred much more frequently in the combination therapy patients included a reduced number of white blood cells; skin disorders such as dry skin and rash; stomach complaints such as lack of appetite, nausea and indigestion; infections; insomnia; difficulty breathing, cough and fatigue.
"The beneficial effect of adding ri
Source:Center for the Advancement of Health