Source Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
BACKGROUND: Combination antiviral therapy holds the promise of increasing response rates while decreasing antiviral resistance, but has yet to be shown to be beneficial or necessary in chronic hepatitis B.
AIM: To evaluate the benefit of combination therapy with adefovir and lamivudine versus adefovir alone in maintaining virological, biochemical and histological responses.
METHODS: Patients with chronic hepatitis B with and without previous lamivudine therapy were randomised to receive adefovir alone (10 mg/daily) or adefovir and lamivudine (100 mg/daily) for up to 192 weeks. Study endpoints were (i) maintained virological (HBV DNA <500 copies/mL), biochemical and histological response, (ii) loss of HBeAg and (iii) loss of HBsAg.
RESULTS: A total of 41 patients were enrolled, including 31 HBeAg -positive and 31 treatment-naïve subjects. 30 patients remained on assigned therapy at 192 weeks. The percentage of patients achieving a combined maintained response was higher in the combination than the monotherapy arm, both at week 48 (59% vs. 26%, P = 0.06) and 192 (68% vs. 31%, P = 0.03). At week 192, 76% of the combination vs. 36% of the monotherapy group had loss of HBeAg (P = 0.03). One patient receiving adefovir cleared HBsAg. Adefovir resistance developed in 6 of 19 (32%) monotherapy but none of 22 combination treated patients (P = 0.03).
CONCLUSIONS: Extended combination therapy with lamivudine and adefovir is associated with a high rate of long-term virological and biochemical response. Adefovir monotherapy appears to be less effective mainly because of poor initial response and the ultimate development of antiviral resistance (www.Clinical. Trials.gov NCT00023309).