Background:  Pegylated interferon-α has been shown to be more efficacious than conventional interferon in treating chronic hepatitis C. The use of peginterferon in chronic hepatitis B virus infection with positive hepatitis B e antigen has also been tested in a number of trials since 2003.

Aim:  To systematically summarize and compare the results of these studies.

Methods:  Four studies were identified from PubMed, Medline and reference lists. Data from the trials were extracted and analysed. Where appropriate, combined odds ratio of different trials was calculated. Safety data including serious adverse events and emergence of drug-resistant mutants were recorded.

Results:  Three of the four trials contained predominantly Asian patients. Peginterferon is found to be superior to lamivudine monotherapy and induced sustained biochemical and virological responses in about one-thirds of patients after 12 months of therapy. Coadministration of lamivudine did not result in improvement in viral suppression. Peginterferon appears to reduce the emergence of YMDD mutation in the combination treatment groups. It was well tolerated with serious adverse events reported in <10% of patients in most trials.

Conclusions:  Peginterferon-α treatment of at least 6 months should be considered as one of the first-line therapeutic options for hepatitis B virus infection.