What is Sustained Response?
During the course of antiviral therapy for hepatitis C, patients may show varying degrees of response to interferon or other medications. Those who do not have detectable blood serum levels of viral RNA 6 months after finishing treatment with medication are called “sustained responders” or “long term responders”.
Sustained responders may “relapse” though at a later time, and have a recurrence of viral RNA. A person who has shown a sustained response to therapy should continue to have ALT and RNA values checked every 6 to 12 months after therapy has stopped.
Combination medications such as Rebetron (lamivudine and interferon combined) appear to have a better sustained response rate than solo therapy with interferon alone, according to studies. Length of treatment also seems to be a factor, with patients on 48 weeks of therapy doing better than those on 24 weeks in initial studies done.
Other factors associated with an improved response rate include a younger age, having the infection less than 5 years, lower hepatitis C virus RNA concentrations, no cirrhosis on biopsy, and a genotype other than 1a or 1b. Studies are ongoing to determine what can help to improve the sustained response rates to therapy for chronic hepatitis B and C.