Background Previous studies suggested that a finite course of peginterferon alfa-2a may offer an alternative rescue therapy for patients with lamivudine resistance. However, because of the limitation of study design and small sample size, it is difficult to make definitive conclusion. Aim To explore the role of peginterferon alfa-2a, in the rescue treatment of HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B patients with lamivudine resistance.
Methods In this randomised study, chronic hepatitis B patients with lamivudine resistance were treated with peginterferon alfa-2a for 48 weeks (n = 155) or adefovir for 72 weeks (n = 80). All enrolled patients were treated with lamivudine for the first 12 weeks.
Results At 6 months posttreatment, 14.6% (18/123) of peginterferon alfa-2a-treated patients achieved HBeAg seroconversion, in contrast to 3.8% (3/80) of adefovir-treated patients after 72 weeks continuous therapy (P = 0.01). For peginterferon alfa-2a-treated patients, the rate of HBeAg seroconversion at week 72 was significantly higher in patients who had HBsAg decline >0.5 Log(10) IU/mL from baseline at week 24, compared with patients with HBsAg decline ≤0.5 Log(10) IU/mL from baseline at week 24 (25.5% vs. 7.7%, P = 0.01). After 72 weeks continuous adefovir treatment, 22.5% of patients achieved HBV DNA <80 IU/mL, compared with 10.6% in peginterferon alfa-2a-treated patients at 6 months off-treatment (P = 0.02).
Conclusions Overall, the response to peginterferon alfa-2a among patients with lamivudine resistance was suboptimal. HBeAg seroconversion rate at week 72 by 48 weeks peginterferon alfa-2a treatment was higher than continuous adefovir therapy. Monitoring HBsAg levels can help to predict response to peginterferon alfa-2a.