Hepatitis Home > What Is Peginterferon Alfa-2a Used For?

Peginterferon alfa-2a is prescribed for certain types of hepatitis infections. It is specifically approved to treat chronic hepatitis C in adults and children as young as five years old. This medicine is also licensed to treat chronic hepatitis B in adults age 18 and older. When using peginterferon alfa-2a for hepatitis C, it may be combined with another medicine to improve effectiveness.

An Overview of Uses for Peginterferon Alfa-2a

Peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys®) is a prescription medication approved for chronic hepatitis C or chronic hepatitis B. For hepatitis C, peginterferon alfa-2a works best when combined with ribavirin, although it can also be used alone if necessary. For hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infections, 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.

Peginterferon Alfa-2a Use for Hepatitis B and C

Hepatitis B and C are diseases that involve inflammation of the liver due to an infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV). People get hepatitis B or C by coming in contact with an infected person's blood or bodily fluids (see Hepatitis C Transmission and Hepatitis B Transmission for more information).
Once someone is infected with hepatitis B or C, the infection can be acute or become chronic. In an acute infection, the virus is cleared from the body within a few months. With hepatitis B, most people will completely clear the virus within a few months, although a few will end up with chronic hepatitis B. With hepatitis C, however, most of the time, the virus is not completely cleared, and the infection becomes chronic, or continues for a long time. Chronic hepatitis B or C can cause liver problems, including:
  • Liver cirrhosis (scarring)
  • Cancer
  • Liver failure.
The goal of treatment for chronic hepatitis B or C is to completely clear the body of the 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.
For hepatitis C, peginterferon alfa-2a works best when combined with ribavirin and a hepatitis C protease inhibitor drug like Incivek or Victrelis. This is the preferred regimen for adults with hepatitis C genotype 1.
For other hepatitis C genotypes and for people 5 to 17 years of age, regardless of genotype, the preferred regimen is peginterferon alfa-2a plus ribavirin. For peginterferon alfa-2a to be used alone for hepatitis C treatment, there must be a good reason why someone cannot or should not take ribavirin.
Peginterferon alfa-2a is typically used alone for hepatitis B treatment, and is approved only for use in adults.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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