Background Pegylated interferon (peginterferon) alfa 2a or 2b plus ribavirin regimens were the standard of care in patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, but the sustained virological response can be suboptimum in patients with HCV genotype 1 infection. The efficacy, safety, and tolerability of the combination of simeprevir, a one-pill, once-daily, oral HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitor versus placebo, plus peginterferon alfa 2a or 2b plus ribavirin was assessed in treatment-naive patients with HCV genotype 1 infection. Methods In the QUEST-2, phase 3 study, done at 76 sites in 14 countries (Europe, and North and South Americas), patients with confirmed chronic HCV genotype 1 infection and no history of HCV treatment were randomly assigned with a computer-generated allocation sequence in a ratio of 2:1 and stratified by HCV genotype 1 subtype and host IL28B genotype to receive simeprevir (150 mg once daily, orally), peginterferon alfa 2a (180 μg once weekly, subcutaneous injection) or 2b (according to bodyweight; 50 μg, 80 μg, 100 μg, 120 μg, or 150 μg once weekly, subcutaneous injection), plus ribavirin (1000-1200 mg/day or 800-1400 mg/day, orally; simeprevir group) or placebo (once daily, orally), peginterferon alfa 2a or 2b, plus ribavirin (placebo group) for 12 weeks, followed by just peginterferon alfa 2a or 2b plus ribavirin. Total treatment duration was 24 weeks or 48 weeks (simeprevir group) based on criteria for response-guided therapy (ie, HCV RNA <25 IU/mL undetectable or detectable at week 4 and undetectable week 12) or 48 weeks (placebo). Patients, study personnel, and the sponsor were masked to treatment assignment. The primary efficacy endpoint was sustained virological response at 12 weeks after the planned end of treatment (SVR12). Analyses were by intention to treat. The trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01290679. Results from the primary (SVR12, week 60) analysis are presented. Findings 209 (81%) of 257 patients in the simeprevir group and 67 (50%) of 134 in the placebo group had SVR12 (adjusted difference 32·2%, 95% CI 23·3- 41·2; p<0·0001). The incidences of adverse events were similar in the simeprevir and placebo groups at 12 weeks (246 [96%] vs 130 [97%]) and for the entire treatment (249 [97%] vs 132 [99%]), irrespective of the peginterferon alfa used. The most common adverse events were headache, fatigue, pyrexia, and influenza-like illness at 12 weeks (95 [37%) vs 45 [34%], 89 [35%] vs 52 [39%], 78 [30%] vs 48 [36%], and 66 [26%] vs 34 [25%], respectively) and for the entire treatment (100 [39%] vs 49 [37%], 94 [37%] vs 56 [42%], 79 [31%] vs 53 [40%], and 66 [26%] vs 35 [26%], respectively). Rash and photosensitivity frequencies were higher in the simeprevir group than in the placebo group (61 [24%] vs 15 [11%] and ten [4%] vs one [<1%], respectively). There was no difference in the prevalence of anaemia between the simeprevir and placebo groups (35 [14%] vs 21 [16%], respectively, at 12 weeks, and 53 [21%] vs 37 [28%], respectively, during the entire treatment). Interpretation Addition of simeprevir to either peginterferon alfa 2a or peginterferon alfa 2b plus ribavirin improved SVR in treatment-naive patients with HCV genotype 1 infection, without worsening the known adverse events associated with peginterferon alfa plus ribavirin. Funding Janssen Infectious Diseases-Diagnostics.
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