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Keywords:

  • chronic/drug therapy;
  • hepatitis B e Antigen negative;
  • hepatitis B;
  • lamivudine/therapeutic use;
  • prospective studies;
  • recurrence/relapse

Abstract

Background and Aims:  Lamivudine, a nucleoside analog, is commonly used for treatment of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) but its durability of effectiveness after withdrawal is still uncertain. This study was designed to assess the durability of lamivudine treatment with stringent cessation criteria in hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative patients and to explore potential predictive factors.

Methods:  Sixty one HBeAg-negative CHB patients who had received lamivudine for at least 24 months and had maintained undetectable serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA plus normal alanine aminotransferase for ≥ 18 months before withdrawal were included. They were followed up monthly during the first 4 months and at 3-month or 6-month intervals thereafter. Relapse was defined as serum HBV DNA ≥ 104 copies/mL.

Results:  Thirty one of 61 patients relapsed during follow-up, over 90% occurred within 18 months after lamivudine withdrawal. Cumulative relapse rates at months 6, 12, 24, 36, 48 and 60 were 26.2%, 43.6%, 49.7%, 52.1%, 56.1% and 56.1%, respectively. Cox regression revealed that age was the only predictive factor for relapse, with lower relapse rates found in younger patients. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) turned negative in eight patients, and none of them relapsed during follow-up.

Conclusion:  Effectiveness of lamivudine treatment is not durable in HBeAg-negative CHB patients even when stringent cessation criteria are adopted, with the exception of patients aged ≤ 20 years. The ideal end point of lamivudine treatment is clearance of serum HBsAg.