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What Is Peginterferon Alfa-2b Used For?

Peginterferon alfa-2b is licensed for the treatment of hepatitis C and melanoma. Although it is not entirely clear how it works to treat melanoma, it is known to help fight the hepatitis C virus by activating the body's response to viruses. Peginterferon alfa-2b is approved for use in adults as young as 18 years old, and can be used in children in certain circumstances.

An Overview of Uses for Peginterferon Alfa-2b

Peginterferon alfa-2b (PegIntron®, Sylatron®) is a prescription medication approved for two different uses, depending on the particular product. PegIntron is approved to treat chronic hepatitis C. It works best when combined with ribavirin (Rebetol®), although it can be used alone if necessary. It works even better when combined with both ribavirin and a hepatitis C protease inhibitor (like Incivek™ or Victrelis™), although such a combination is not appropriate for all individuals.
 
Sylatron is approved for treating melanoma. It is intended for use after the cancer has been surgically removed to help prevent (or at least delay) the melanoma from coming back. Specifically, it should be started within 84 days after surgery to remove lymph nodes that contain the cancer cells.
 

Using Peginterferon Alfa-2b for Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an inflammation of the liver due to an infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). People get this condition by coming in contact with an infected person's blood (see Hepatitis C Transmission for more information about how the virus is spread).
 
Once someone is infected with hepatitis C, the infection can be acute or become chronic. In an acute infection, the virus is cleared from the body within a few months. Most of the time, however, the virus is not completely cleared, and the infection becomes chronic, or continues for a long time. Chronic hepatitis C can cause liver problems, including liver cirrhosis (scarring), cancer, and liver failure.
 
There are different types of hepatitis C virus; these are referred to as hepatitis C genotypes. The main hepatitis C genotypes are simply known as genotypes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Genotype 1 is the most common genotype in the United States. Between 70 and 90 percent of people in the United States with hepatitis C have a genotype 1 infection.
 
(Click Hepatitis C Genotypes to learn more about these genotypes, including why it is important to know which one is causing the hepatitis infection.)
 
The standard of care for hepatitis C treatment is the use of combination medication therapy. Combination therapy uses more than one drug to try to rid the body of the infection.
 
The goal of hepatitis C treatment is to completely clear the body of the hepatitis C virus. Clearing the virus can ultimately help reduce liver swelling, stop the scarring, and possibly reverse some of the liver damage. It may also reduce the long-term risk of liver cancer.
 
Most people are treated with the combination of peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin, as this combination is more effective than using peginterferon alfa-2b alone. This combination is approved for use in individuals age three and older. However, when using peginterferon alfa-2b alone without ribavirin, it is approved for use in adults age 18 and older who have not previously been treated with interferon.
 
Additionally, hepatitis C protease inhibitors (which are a relatively new drug type) are now available for hepatitis C treatment. Peginterferon alfa-2b is approved to be used together with ribavirin and one of these drugs (Incivek or Victrelis). This is the preferred regimen for adults with hepatitis C genotype 1.
 
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Peginterferon Alfa-2b Drug Information

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