Background & aims: The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term sustainability of response in patients with hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive chronic hepatitis B treated with pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN) alpha-2b alone or in combination with lamivudine.
Methods: All 266 patients enrolled in the HBV99-01 study were offered participation in a long-term follow-up (LTFU) study. Patients were treated with PEG-IFN alpha-2b (100 mug/wk) alone or in combination with lamivudine (100 mg/day) for 52 weeks. Initial response was defined as HBeAg negativity at 26 weeks posttreatment. For the LTFU study, patients had one additional visit after the initial study (mean interval, 3.0 +/- 0.8 years).
Results: Of 266 patients enrolled in the initial study, 172 (65%) participated in the LTFU study. At LTFU, HBeAg and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) negativity were observed in 37% and 11% of 172 patients, respectively. Sixty-four patients were classified as initial responders and 108 as nonresponders. Among the initial responders, sustained HBeAg negativity and HBsAg loss were observed in 81% and 30%, respectively. Significantly higher rates of HBeAg negativity were observed in genotype A-infected initial responders compared with those with genotype non-A (96% vs 76%; P = .06) as well as HBsAg loss (58% vs 11%; P < .001).
Conclusions: HBeAg loss after treatment with PEG-IFN alpha-2b alone or in combination with lamivudine is sustained in the majority of patients and is associated with a high likelihood of HBsAg loss, particularly in genotype A-infected patients. Therefore, PEG-IFN alpha-2b remains an important treatment option in this era of nucleos(t)ide analogue therapy.