Background For patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in the immune tolerant phase, the current standard of care is to not offer treatment. However, the recent Risk Evaluation of the Viral Load Elevation and Associated Liver Disease/Cancer-In study results show a striking relationship between high HBV DNA levels and risk for hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis.
Aim In a cost effectiveness analysis, to assess whether immune tolerant patients with high HBV DNA levels should undergo treatment.
Methods We created a lifetime Markov model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of two strategies for immune tolerant hepatitis B: (i) HBV DNA suppression with lamivudine, (ii) no treatment. Patients cycled between the following health states: viral suppression, ongoing viremia, seroconversion, hepatocellular carcinoma, cirrhosis and death.
Results Compared with the no treatment strategy, lamivudine therapy was more expensive but more cost-effective with an additional cost of $5784 and $12 584 per quality adjusted life year gained in males and females, respectively. Treatment resulted in a gain in life expectancy and a decrease in lifetime risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis.
Conclusions Suppressing HBV DNA to prevent hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis in immune tolerant patients is very cost-effective, and treatment of these patients may be considered. Future prospective clinical trials will need to be undertaken to confirm our findings.