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HALT-C researchers: Interferon as long-term treatment for hepatitis C not effective
Date:12/4/2008

DALLAS Dec. 4, 2008 Use of the drug interferon as a long-term maintenance strategy to slow the progression of liver disease associated with the hepatitis C virus is ineffective, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers and their colleagues from nine other institutions have found in a multicenter study.

Results of the 3-year study, called the HALT-C (Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment Against Cirrhosis) Trial, appear in today's issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers found no difference in the rate of progression of liver disease among patients who received interferon and those who did not.

"It wasn't that there was an insignificant difference; there was absolutely no difference whatsoever in the progression to cirrhosis and other disease complications," said Dr. William M. Lee, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and a principal investigator for the study. "It is a negative study but an important one."

Dr. Lee said physicians should not expect any benefit from the long-term use of interferon by itself in slowing disease progression. By contrast, use of interferon with other drugs such as ribavirin can lead to viral eradication, or complete clearance of hepatitis C virus, a result that will "stop the disease in its tracks," Dr. Lee said.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and can progress over many years to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and death. The disease affects more than 3 million people in the United States and 170 million people worldwide. It is the most common reason for liver transplantation in the U.S.

There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C virus infection. The combination of interferon and ribavirin works for about 40 percent to 50 percent of people with the virus, while the other 50 percent to 60 percent of patients will continue to progress to later states of liver disease, Dr. Lee said.

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Contact: LaKisha Ladson
lakisha.ladson@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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HALT-C researchers: Interferon as long-term treatment for hepatitis C not effective
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