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July 24, 1987

Corticosteroid-Interferon Therapy for Hepatitis B Characterized as 'Potentially Exciting' so Far

JAMA. 1987;258(4):427-432. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400040017004

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IN THE late 1970s, Thomas Merigan, MD, and colleagues at Stanford (Calif) University School of Medicine noticed that patients with chronic active hepatitis B who had been receiving prednisone responded to interferon treatment better than patients who had not received steroids.

At that time, corticosteroid treatment for chronic hepatitis B was losing favor, and a way to manufacture commercial amounts of interferon had just been discovered. Merigan, who now heads Stanford's Division of Infectious Diseases, and his group first described the steroid-antiviral connection in an article six years ago (J Infect Dis 1981;143:772-783). But, enthusiasm for interferon, and later for the other new antiviral substances, was high. So, the investigators continued studying these as single-drug therapy.

Today, the high hope many hepatitis researchers had for interferon and other antivirals is waning. These days, "everybody [in hepatitis B research] is doing combined-therapy trials," says Myron Tong, MD, PhD, professor of medicine,