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Keywords:

  • adefovir;
  • drug resistance;
  • entecavir;
  • hepatitis B treatment;
  • interferons;
  • lamivudine

Abstract

The main goals of chronic hepatitis B treatment should be the long-term suppression of viral replication to minimize disease progression and the risk for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. Treatment end-points, depending on surrogate markers alone, in particular hepatitis B e-antigen seroconversion, may not be ideal for patients who acquire the disease early in life.

Currently-available drugs include interferons and oral nucleoside/nucleotide analogs. Although interferon therapy provides a finite treatment period, a significant proportion of patients may not respond, and long-term outcome is inconclusive. Long-term efficacy has been demonstrated for both lamivudine and adefovir. However, prolonged nucleoside/nucleotide analog therapy is associated with the emergence of drug-resistant mutations. Therefore, nucleoside/nucleotide analogs with a high genetic barrier and potent antiviral activity, such as entecavir, should be used to reduce the chance of developing drug-resistant mutations. Drugs with a low genetic barrier, including lamivudine and telbivudine, should be used in conjunction with early testing for antiviral response. This can predict favorable outcomes in the long term. The early detection of drug-resistant mutations should prompt clinicians to either add or switch to another agent with a different drug-resistance profile. There are currently no treatment models in the use of combination or sequential therapy in treatment-naïve patients.

To date, long-term treatment appears to be the most effective option. Despite recent advances made with better understanding on the natural history of chronic hepatitis B infection and with newer antiviral drugs available, challenges remain with respect to treatment criteria, treatment end-points, and duration of treatment.