Author(s): Patrick Marcellin, George KK Lau, Ferruccio Bonino, Patrizia Farci, Stephanos Hadziyannis
BACKGROUND: Available treatments for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis B are associated with poor sustained responses. As a result, nucleoside and nucleotide analogues are typically continued indefinitely, a strategy associated with the risk of resistance and unknown long-term safety implications.
METHODS: We compared the efficacy and safety of peginterferon alfa-2a (180 microg once weekly) plus placebo, peginterferon alfa-2a plus lamivudine (100 mg daily), and lamivudine alone in 177, 179, and 181 patients with HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B, respectively. Patients were treated for 48 weeks and followed for an additional 24 weeks.
RESULTS: After 24 weeks of follow-up, the percentage of patients with normalization of alanine aminotransferase levels or hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA levels below 20,000 copies per milliliter was significantly higher with peginterferon alfa-2a monotherapy (59 percent and 43 percent, respectively) and peginterferon alfa-2a plus lamivudine (60 percent and 44 percent) than with lamivudine monotherapy (44 percent, P=0.004 and P=0.003, respectively; and 29 percent, P=0.007 and P=0.003, respectively). Rates of sustained suppression of HBV DNA to below 400 copies per milliliter were 19 percent with peginterferon alfa-2a monotherapy, 20 percent with combination therapy, and 7 percent with lamivudine alone (P<0.001 for both comparisons with lamivudine alone). Loss of hepatitis B surface antigen occurred in 12 patients in the peginterferon groups, as compared with 0 patients in the group given lamivudine alone. Adverse events, including pyrexia, fatigue, myalgia, and headache, were less frequent with lamivudine monotherapy than with peginterferon alfa-2a monotherapy or combination therapy. CONCLUSIONS: Patients with HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B had significantly higher rates of response, sustained for 24 weeks after the cessation of therapy, with peginterferon alfa-2a than with lamivudine. The addition of lamivudine to peginterferon alfa-2a did not improve post-therapy response rates.