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Abstract

We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study evaluating famciclovir (500 mg 3 times daily and 1.5 g once daily) for 1 year (6 months post-treatment follow-up) in patients with chronic hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The study was conducted in 80 centers in North America, Europe, and Australia/New Zealand. A total of 417 patients with histologically documented chronic hepatitis B (histologic activity index [HAI] 9.5-11.0) received famciclovir (500 mg 3 times daily or 1.5 g once daily) or placebo. Famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily significantly reduced HBV DNA and median HAI scores versus placebo. By week 8, median HBV DNA decreased from 1,645 to 283 MEq/mL (famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily) and from 1,147 to 304 MEq/mL (famciclovir 1.5 g once daily), while increasing for placebo (1,617 to 1,685 MEq/mL). Median change in HBV DNA at the end of therapy was −76% (famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily; P < .01) and −60% (famciclovir 1.5 g once daily; P = .25) versus −37% for placebo. Median change in HAI was −1.5 points (famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily; P = .02) and −1.0 point (famciclovir 1.5 g once daily; P = .35) and zero for placebo. Fifty percent of patients receiving famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily (P = .07) and 43% receiving 1.5 g once daily (P = .41) experienced ≥2 points improvement in HAI versus 37% for placebo. Nine percent of patients treated with famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily underwent anti-HBeAg seroconversion with undetectable HBV DNA at end of follow-up versus 3% in the placebo group (P = .05). Famciclovir was well tolerated; the incidence of post-treatment alanine transaminase (ALT) elevations was comparable with placebo. In conclusion, famciclovir 500 mg 3 times daily gave modest suppression of viral replication, but translated into significant histologic improvement in median HAI score at 1 year.