Combination therapy with lamivudine and famciclovir for chronic hepatitis B–infected Chinese patients: A viral dynamics study



In vitro studies have shown that lamivudine and penciclovir (the active metabolite of famciclovir) act synergistically to inhibit hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication. We compared the effectiveness of HBV viral suppression by lamivudine monotherapy versus lamivudine plus famciclovir combination therapy in Chinese patients with chronic HBV infection. Twenty-one Chinese hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive patients, with detectable HBV DNA (Digene Hybrid Capture II), were randomized to receive either lamivudine 150 mg/d orally (group 1, 9 patients) or lamivudine 150 mg/d plus famciclovir 500 mg 3 times a day orally (group 2, 12 patients) for 12 weeks, with a follow-up period of at least 16 weeks. Serial serum HBV-DNA levels were determined and a mathematical model with provision for incomplete inhibition of virus production during therapy was applied to analyze the dynamics of viral clearance. The mean antiviral efficacy was significantly greater in group 2 than in group 1 (0.988 ± 0.012 vs. 0.94 ± 0.03, P = .0012). HBV DNA returned to pretreatment level within 16 weeks after the end of initial treatment in 4 patients (66.7%) in group 1 and none in group 2 (P = .08), who remained HBeAg positive and received no further treatment after week 12. Hence, in Chinese chronic HBeAg-positive patients, combination therapy using lamivudine and famciclovir was superior to lamivudine monotherapy in inhibiting HBV replication. Further studies of longer duration are needed to define whether combination therapy will increase the HBeAg seroconversion rate and decrease the rate of emergence of lamivudine-resistant variants.