Chronic hepatitis B
- Cite this article as:
- Straley, S.D. & Terrault, N.A. Curr Treat Options Gastro (2004) 7: 477. doi:10.1007/s11938-004-0007-3
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Interferon alpha, lamivudine, and adefovir are the three drugs currently approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV). There are pros and cons associated with the use of each drug. Individualization of therapy, based upon factors such as patient comorbidities, response to prior therapies, and stage of disease, is recommended. Patients with abnormal liver enzymes, indices of active viral replication (HBV DNA positive ± hepatitis B early antigen [HBeAg] positive) or evidence of necroinflammatory activity on liver biopsy, and compensated liver disease are potential candidates for treatment with interferon, lamivudine, or adefovir. Patients with abnormal liver enzymes, indices of active viral replication (HBV DNA positive ± HBeAg positive), and decompensated liver disease are candidates for treatment with lamivudine or adefovir. Consideration of liver transplantation should occur concurrently. Interferon alpha treatment results in hepatitis B surface antigen [HBeAg] loss and sustained suppression of HBV DNA replication in 30% to 40% of treated patients. Loss of HBsAg occurs in nearly 10% of patients and a higher than expected frequency of HBsAg loss occurs long-term. The main limitation of therapy is the side effects and the need for parenteral administration. Additionally, interferon therapy is not applicable to all patient groups. Lamivudine achieves HBeAg seroconversion in 15% to 20% of patients treated for 12 months, but (HBsAg) loss is rare. Reduction in HBV DNA to undetectable levels (by hybridization assay) during treatment is nearly universal, and histologic improvement is seen in about 55% of patients. The main limitation of lamivudine therapy is the development of drug resistance, which occurs in 20% of patients after 12 months and increases with duration of therapy (55% at 3 years). Adefovir achieves HBeAg seroconversion in 12% of patients treated for 12 months, but HBsAg loss is rare. An average 3.5 log reduction in HBV DNA levels is and histologic improvement occurs in 50% to 60% of patients. It is effective against both wild-type and lamivudine-resistant HBV. The risk of drug resistance is low and estimated to be approximately 2% to 3% after 2 years of treatment. Several new antiviral agents are currently under evaluation in clinical trials. In addition, there are two drugs (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that have been approved for HIV infection and that have anti-HBV activity. In the future, combination therapy for chronic HBV infection can be anticipated. Utilization of two or more anti-HBV drugs would be predicted to enhance efficacy and reduce the likelihood of emergence of drug resistance.