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Repeating Interferon Monotherapy May Cause Harm

February 1, 2013

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Interferon monotherapy is an option for treating certain individuals with Hepatitis C; however, a new review claims that repeating this treatment can be devastating.

Chronic hepatitis C: Interferon may be harmful in re-treatment

People with hepatitis C and chronic liver disease who relapsed or failed to respond to initial treatment are unlikely to improve on interferon retreatment. In fact, they may face an increased risk of dying sooner, and are likely to experience a variety of adverse effects, according to an updated systematic review published in The Cochrane Library.

Hepatitis C affects around 170 million people worldwide. In some cases, infection leads to chronic liver disease, liver failure or liver cancer, eventually resulting in death.

Treatment is based on antiviral drugs. Interferon monotherapy, meaning using interferon alone, is not the first choice of therapy for most clinicians, but it is used in some patients when other drugs cannot be used. Despite costing thousands of dollars to treat one patient for a year, there is currently little evidence that it works. Treatment is considered to have been successful if the virus cannot be detected in a patient’s blood six months after treatment. This outcome is known as sustained viral response (SVR). However, it has never been confirmed that SVR leads to an improvement in the patient’s disease state or their chances of survival.

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  • aynonomous

    the side effects of Interferon based drugs and ribaviron based drugs are quite significant, dangerous, and potentially fatal. I would suggest that if you dropped out of the treatment or failed to respond to the treatment the first time around, I would suggest not to try it again. I dropped out of treatment at 4 months because of anemia, low platelets, and I suddenly lost half my vision either from a stroke or from a migraine headache, but it was terrifying to be able to see only half the field of vision I had before treatment. My platelets level never completely recovered which leads me to believe there might be damage to the bone marrow from the interferon. However, Luckily my vision recovered after stopping treatment. It’s a decision you make – did I want to be blind or not blind and have the virus. You decide.

  • mary

    it’s downright shameful that we are offered it even

    • sum1withHCV

      agree!! the FDA should take a course of the drugs before deciding whether allowing them to be used is ok.. I done 12 months of both and it didnt work and ive been ILL ever since the treatment, they should tell patients before treatment that it can have life long debilitating symptoms aswell as i see more and more people like me who have had serious health conditions since doing Interferon and Ribavirin – I advise anyone to wait for non-interferon treatments – wait as long as you possibly can..there are much better and safer drugs in the pipeline and at the rate they are being discovered I would say in 10 years hep-c treatment will be much safer with 90% success rates

  • ciscodoggy

    I made it year on mono Infergen and was negative SVR entire year, but relapsed a month after stopping. 6 months neg SVR was not predictor of successful treatment in my case! Hard to tell what symptoms I have are from high viral load since 1992 or from year of interferon. God knows I have pletty of disabling symptoms!

  • pattdom

    Where’s my post??

  • pattdom

    I was on hep c treatment for 5 months. Started in Feb 2012, March 2012 victrelis was added. April was told I’d need to be on treatment for a year! Ugg!!! July 2012 I had to stop! No choice due to the fact that I was physically wasting away. Lost 30 lbs, anemic, lost all body strenght etc etc etc.
    Jan 2013 the 6 month marker for blood work. No virus detected. Wow! I’m so thankful to be so lucky, but I prefer to believe it was because of Jesus and the power of prayer. However, either reason, I’m cured of this nasty disease. The side affects were awful, and I’d never do it again and I’m not sure if I’d be a proponent of treatment. I’d leave that decision to the patient & his/her doctor.

  • Kim

    I was diagnosed 7 years ago with chronic hep c and was so very ill. My breathing was bad, my face was always full of acne and I had frequent fever blisters. When I slept, which was whenever I wasn’t working, my husband said my flatulence was so bad and I was so hard to wake he had to see if I was still breathing. I also felt very toxic. After diagnosis and reading all I could find on the interferon/ribavirin treatment prescribed to me I decided that didn’t seem like a very good option. I had stage 2 cirrhosis and my doc said I could need a transplant in as little as 5 years. I started taking milk thistle, 4 3 times a day extra vitamin c and other supplements. I began to eat mostly veggies and smaller portions of lean meats, eggs , yoghurt and milk. I pray a lot and drink very little. Also quit smoking. I have not had my viral load checked in a few years, but I feel so much better than before. I still get fatigued at times. But I’m so glad I opted to not have treatment at this time. There is much hope, just read all you can and listen to your body and keep the faith.

  • Julie Swift

    I have just had my Interferon injection number 23 out of 48, so I am nearly half way through. I am also taking Ribavarin and Victrellis, and the side effects are horrendous. I did this treatment in 2006/7 but stopped after 7mths because I was a non-responder.

    After reading the other posts here I wonder if the fatigue I continued to experience was as a result of the first round of Hep C drugs rather than the condition of my liver.

    So far I have responded to the treatment (although not undetectable, but low), and I will get my 6mth viral load done in a couple of weeks. If I am still responding then I will continue, however I am not convinced that this is the solution. I cannot describe how awful I feel, due to the anaemia (8.1 haemoglobin) let alone all the other sides.

    Well… there anyone out there who can tell me that they felt so much better post treatment…..that is what I want to hear more than anything, so I can get my life back.

  • Sue

    I had the platlet problem on my second go round and had to quit, nearly died going down to 10k platelets. I want to remind everyone, that all of these hazzards are listed on the giant small print precautions of these drugs. I did my first treatment ten years and the second eight years ago. I knew it was a guinea pig experience, but I figure I helped further the research into this disease and you should too. We did our part to help and should be happy to help out by maybe helping others.

  • PK

    I’d like to know what continued side effects others are having. I have been treated with 11 months of Interferon 3 separate times plus 6 months of supposed maintenance dose early on. Last treatment with Incivek, ribaviron, peg intron is non detectable. but it almost killed me. Couldn’t leave the bathroom for 3 months on Incivek. Now have very low energy, lots of problems with pain in ears and below my ears, seen a bunch of specialist, cant find out why my ears hurt and throb with no infection etc. Still have low platelets and low white cells. What are others experiencing?