Association of host pharmacodynamic effects with virologic response to pegylated interferon alfa-2a/ribavirin in chronic hepatitis C.
Patients receiving therapy for chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection frequently experience cytopenias and weight loss. We retrospectively assessed the pharmacodynamic effects of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) alfa-2a and ribavirin by evaluating the relationship between changes in hematologic parameters, body weight, and virologic response. Patients with HCV genotypes 1, 4, 5, or 6 receiving 24 or 48 weeks of PEG-IFN alfa-2a and ribavirin therapy were pooled from four phase 3/4 trials. Maximum decreases in hemoglobin level, neutrophil count, platelet count, and weight during therapy were assessed according to virologic response category (sustained virologic response [SVR], relapse, breakthrough, and nonresponder) and race/ethnicity. Of 1,778 patients analyzed, more than half were male, non-Hispanic Caucasian, and infected with HCV genotype 1; had a baseline HCV RNA >800,000; and had alanine aminotransferase levels ?3 × the upper limit of normal. Virologic responders (SVR, relapse, and breakthrough) experienced greater maximum decreases from baseline in hemoglobin level, neutrophil count, platelet count, and weight compared with nonresponders; however, no clear trend was observed between SVR, relapse, and breakthrough. After adjusting for drug exposure and treatment duration, only decreases in neutrophil count remained associated with virologic response. Significantly greater declines in neutrophil (P < 0.0001) and platelet (P < 0.005) count were observed at weeks 4, 12, and 24 of therapy in virologic responders compared with nonresponders. This difference between responders and nonresponders was also observed among racial/ethnic groups, although statistical significance was not consistent across all groups. Conclusion: This post hoc analysis of HCV patients treated with PEG-IFN alfa-2a and ribavirin shows that maximum decreases from baseline in hematologic parameters and weight loss were associated with virologic response. However, after adjusting for drug exposure and accounting for duration of therapy, only neutropenia was independently associated with virologic response.