Pegylated interferon (PEG interferon) includes three different drugs as of 2012 as a class of interferon therapy. They are: pegylated interferon-alfa-2a, pegylated interferon-alfa-2b, and pegylated interferon-beta-1a. The pegylated interferons are used for interferon therapy of hepatitis B, hepatitis C and multiple sclerosis. The function of PEG here in these formulation is to make interferon last longer in the body.
Over the past decade, significant improvements have been made in the treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC), especially with the introduction of combined therapy using both interferon and ribavarin. The optimal dose and duration of treatment is still a matter of debate and, importantly, the efficacy of this combined treatment varies with the viral genotype responsible for infection.
In general, patients infected with viral genotypes 2 or 3 more readily achieve a sustained viral response than those infected with viral genotype 1. The introduction of a pegylated version of interferon in the past decade has produced better clinical outcomes in patients infected with viral genotype 1. However, the published literature shows no improvement in clinical outcomes in patients infected with viral genotypes 2 or 3 when they are treated with pegylated interferon as opposed to non-pegylated interferon, both given in combination with ribavarin. This is significant because the cost of a 24-wk treatment with pegylated interferon in less-developed countries is between six and 30 times greater than that of treatment with interferon. Thus, clinicians need to carefully consider the cost-versus-benefit of using pegylated interferon to treat CHC, particularly when there is no evidence for clinically measurable benefits in patients with genotypes 2 and 3 infections.