Ribavirin treatment for patients with chronic hepatitis C: Results of a placebo-controlled study

Geoffrey Dusheiko, Janice Main, Howard Thomas, Olle Reichard, Christine Lee, Amar Dhillon, Suhra Rassam, Aril Fryden, Henk Reesink, Margaret Bassendine, Gunnar Norkrans, Theo Cuypers, Nico Lelie, Paul Telfer, Jon Watson, Christine Weegink, Peter Sillikens, Ola Weiland

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336 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: Small, uncontrolled studies of ribavirin for patients with chronic hepatitis C have reported efficacy in chronic hepatitis C. We have evaluated the efficacy and safety of a 24-week course of oral ribavirin in patients with chronic hepatitis C, compared to placebo. Methods: A total of 114 patients were randomised to ribavirin or placebo. Ribavirin was administered in doses of 1000 or 1200 mg/day for 24 weeks. Efficacy was determined in the intention-to-treat population: 76 received ribavirin and 38 placebo. Results: Ribavirin was significantly more effective than placebo in reducing and normalising serum ALT levels: 42/76 (55%) of ribavirin-treated patients vs 2/38 (5%) placebo recipients had either normalisation of the ALT levels or a reduction from baseline of at least 50% (p < 0.001). ALT levels were normal in 22/76 (29%) of ribavirin-treated patients vs 0/38 placebo recipients (p < 0.001). Twenty-four weeks after stopping ribavirin, the majority of patients had abnormal ALT levels. There was no difference between the treatment groups in reduction or disappearance of HCV-RNA levels. HCV RNA disappeared during treatment in 3% of ribavirin-treated patients and 3% of placebo recipients. More ribavirin than placebo patients showed improvement in total Knodell score (45% vs 31%), but these differences were not statistically significant. Analysis of each component of a histology activity index revealed no statistically significant differences between treatment groups. Ribavirin patients had fewer lymphoid aggregates than did placebo recipients at the post-treatment assessment (p = 0.05). Ribavirin was associated with reversible haemolytic anaemia: a fall in haemoglobin occurred in 3% of placebo- and 32% (25/78) of ribavirin-treated patients, respectively (p < 0.001). Conclusions: These data indicate that ribavirin was no more effective than placebo in reducing or eliminating HCV-RNA levels, and was not significantly more effective than placebo in improving hepatic histology after 6 months of treatment. The role of a 6-month treatment of chronic hepatitis C with ribavirin alone, without a significant effect on HCV RNA, is therefore limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-598
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996
Externally publishedYes


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