Background & aims: One-year lamivudine therapy significantly suppressed hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication, improved hepatic necroinflammatory activity, and prevented progression of fibrosis. However, the effects of prolonged therapy are unknown.
Methods: A total of 334 Asian patients with chronic hepatitis B from a previously reported 1-year study were randomized to receive either lamivudine (100 or 25 mg) or placebo for another year. The effects of treatment on serum HBV-DNA suppression, alanine transaminase (ALT) normalization, and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion were measured. The presence of YMDD variant HBV and its effect were also determined.
Results: A significantly greater proportion of patients achieved sustained HBV-DNA suppression and ALT normalization with 100 mg lamivudine daily for 2 years compared with lamivudine for 1 year followed by placebo for the second year (P<0.001). Daily lamivudine therapy for 2 years was safe and resulted in incremental HBeAg seroconversion from 17% at week 52 to 27% at week 104. HBeAg seroconversion during continued lamivudine therapy increased linearly with increasing pretherapy ALT levels (P< 0.001). Despite the emergence of YMDD mutant in 38% of the patients, they continued to clear serum HBeAg and maintain lower median serum HBV-DNA and ALT levels than baseline values. In contrast, ALT levels increased 8-12 weeks after switching from lamivudine to placebo, but returned to normal once lamivudine treatment was resumed.
Conclusions: Treatment with lamivudine for 2 years is both well tolerated and efficacious in patients with chronic hepatitis B.