Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Odense University Hospital, Odense, Denmark.
The effect of antiviral therapy on clinical outcomes in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) is not established. We aimed to assess the effects of interferon and/or nucleos(t)ide analogues versus placebo or no intervention on prevention of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and mortality in chronic HBV.
Random-effects pairwise meta-analysis of randomised trials and observational studies.
Electronic and manual searches were combined. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) were included in the primary analyses. Observational studies were included in sensitivity analyses.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES:
The primary outcome measures were HCC incidence and mortality. The secondary outcome measure was HCC mortality.
We included 8 RCTs, 8 prospective cohort studies and 19 case-control studies with a total of 3433 patients allocated to antiviral therapy and 4625 controls. The maximum duration of follow-up was 23 years. Randomised trials found no effect of antiviral therapy on HCC or mortality. Cohort studies found that antiviral therapy increased the risk of HCC (risk ratio 1.43; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.95), whereas case-control studies found a decreased risk of HCC in the intervention group (risk ratio 0.69; 95% CI 0.54 to 0.88). There was a clear difference between the results of RCTs and observational studies (test for subgroup differences, p<0.001). Antiviral therapy did not affect mortality in cohort studies, but reduced mortality in case-control studies (relative risk 0.71; 95% CI 0.54 to 0.93; test for subgroup differences, p=0.406).
The effect of antiviral therapy on clinical outcomes in HBV remains to be established. Although there was a positive effect in the sensitivity analyses, the strength of the evidence does not allow for extrapolation to clinical practice as research design plays an essential role in the overall assessment.