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Keywords:

  • adolescent;
  • child;
  • hepatitis B;
  • lamivudine;
  • treatment

Summary.  Lamivudine has been demonstrated safe and efficacious in the short term in a large cohort of children with chronic hepatitis B (CHB), but optimal duration of treatment has not been elucidated and limited data on the safety of long-term lamivudine administration have been reported. In addition, the durability of favourable therapeutic outcomes after lamivudine therapy in children has not been well characterized. The aim of this study was to examine the safety of lamivudine and the durability of clinical responses in a group of children who received up to 3 years of treatment for CHB. One hundred and fifty-one children from centres in nine countries who had previously received lamivudine in a large prospective trial were enrolled. During the first year, children had been randomized to either lamivudine or placebo treatment. Subsequently, in a separate extension study, those who remained hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) positive were given lamivudine for up to 2 years and those who were HBeAg negative were observed for additional 2 years. Results of these studies have been previously reported. In this study, these children were followed for 2 additional years. Data gathered from medical record review included weight, height, signs and symptoms of hepatitis, alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, serologic markers, hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA levels and serious adverse events (SAEs). Other pharmacological treatments for CHB were allowed according to the practices of individual investigators and were documented. Subjects were divided into two groups for analysis, those who had achieved virological response (VR), defined as HBeAg negative and undetectable HBV DNA by the bDNA assay by the end of the extension study at 3 years, and those who had not. In those who had achieved VR by the end of the extension study, long-term durability of HBeAg seroconversion was 82% and >90% in those who had received lamivudine for 52 weeks and at least 2 years respectively. This compares to 75% for those who had achieved seroconversion after placebo. In those who had not achieved VR by the end of the extension study, an additional 11% did so by the end of the study; they had all received lamivudine in the previous trial, and none had received further treatment during the study. Eight children lost hepatitis B surface antigen during the study and all had received lamivudine at some point during the previous trials. Evaluation of safety data revealed no SAEs related to lamivudine. There was no effect of treatment on weight or height z scores. Clinically benign ALT flares (>10 times normal) were seen in 2% of children. Favourable outcomes from lamivudine treatment of CHB in children are maintained for at least several years after completion of treatment. Up to 3 years of lamivudine treatment is safe in children.