A randomized, controlled trial of combination therapy for chronic hepatitis B: comparing pegylated interferon-alpha2b and lamivudine with lamivudine alone

Ann Intern Med. 2005 Feb 15;142(4):240-50. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-142-4-200502150-00006.


Background: Conventional interferon and lamivudine monotherapy are unsatisfactory in treating hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of pegylated interferon-alpha2b and lamivudine combination therapy for chronic hepatitis B.

Design: Randomized, controlled, open-label trial.

Setting: Outpatient clinic in a referral center.

Participants: 100 treatment-naive patients with hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive chronic hepatitis B and moderately elevated alanine aminotransferase levels.

Measurement: The primary end point was sustained virologic response (HBeAg seroconversion and HBV DNA level < 500,000 copies/mL) at 24 weeks after cessation of treatment.

Intervention: A staggered regimen of combination therapy with pegylated interferon-alpha2b (1.5 microg/kg of body weight per week; maximum, 100 microg) given for 32 weeks plus lamivudine (100 mg daily) given for 52 weeks versus lamivudine (100 mg daily) monotherapy given for 52 weeks. Of the 100 participants, 96% completed treatment and 80% completed post-treatment follow-up.

Results: The rate of sustained virologic response was 36% for the combination treatment group and 14% for the lamivudine monotherapy group (absolute difference, 22 percentage points [95% CI, 6 to 38 percentage points]). End-of-treatment outcomes showed that, compared with monotherapy, patients receiving combination therapy more often had virologic response (60% vs. 28% [absolute difference, 32 percentage points (CI, 14 to 50 percentage points)]); had more substantial reductions of HBV DNA (3.91 log10 copies/mL vs. 2.83 log10 copies/mL); and less often had lamivudine-resistant mutants (21% vs. 40%). The percentages of patients with normalization of alanine aminotransferase levels and histologic improvement did not differ. Adverse effects, such as transient influenza-like symptoms, alopecia, and local erythematous reactions, were more common with combination therapy.

Limitations: This study lacked a double-blind design and was conducted at 1 institution. Because of the staggered pegylated interferon-lamivudine regimen, patients assigned to combination therapy received treatment for 8 weeks longer than those assigned to monotherapy.

Conclusions: In patients with HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B, staggered combination treatment with pegylated interferon-alpha2b and lamivudine may lead to a higher rate of virologic response than lamivudine monotherapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B virus / physiology
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / adverse effects
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Lamivudine / adverse effects
  • Lamivudine / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Viral Load


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Lamivudine
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • peginterferon alfa-2b