Does interferon therapy for chronic hepatitis B reduce the risks of developing cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma?



Objective: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of interferon-α2B for the treatment of patients with chronic hepatitis B infection who are positive for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg).

Design: Meta-analysis of nine randomized controlled trials and cost-effectiveness analysis, projecting the clinical and economic outcomes expected from changes in serologic markers of hepatitis B viral replication.

Data Sources: MEDLINE search, expert panel opinion, hospital cost data, and adjusted physician charges.

Patients: 552 patients with confirmed chronic hepatitis B infection who were positive for HBeAg.

Intervention: Interferon-α2b.

Measurements: Lifetime incidence of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma; life expectancy; quality-adjusted life expectancy; and costs and marginal cost-effectiveness ratios from a societal perspective.

Results: Interferon-α2b increases the likelihood of becoming negative for HBeAg from 9.1% to 45.6% (difference, 36.5%; 95% CI, 23.7% to 49.2%) and of becoming negative for hepatitis B surface antigen from 1.7% to 7.7% (difference, 6.0%; CI, 2.8% to 9.3%) in the first year. For a 35-year-old person with chronic hepatitis B who is HBeAg positive, our analysis suggests that interferono; α2b will increase life expectancy by 3.1 years or 3.4 quality-adjusted life-years and will decrease projected lifetime costs, even if future savings are discounted; thus, interferon-α2b is the dominant strategy. Even with the model biased strongly in favor of standard care, the marginal cost-effectiveness ratio of interferon did not exceed $12 000 per life-year gained.

Conclusions: Interferon-α2b should prolong life and lower costs for patients with chronic hepatitis B who are HBeAg positive.