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Original article

A randomized controlled trial of sequential pegylated interferon-α and telbivudine or vice versa for 48 weeks in hepatitis B e antigen-negative chronic hepatitis B

Paola Piccolo, Ilaria Lenci, Daniele di Paolo, Luigi Demelia, Orazio Sorbello, Lorenzo Nosotti, Mario Angelico

Corresponding author name: Paola Piccolo
Corresponding author e-mail: paola.piccolo@uniroma2.it

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2013; 18:57-64
doi: 10.3851/IMP2281

Date accepted: 06 June 2012
Date published online: 07 August 2012


Background: Short-term treatment for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis B remains unsatisfactory. The aim of our study was to compare the efficacy and safety of two sequential regimens of pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN)-α and telbivudine (LdT).

Methods: Adult patients with biopsy-proven HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B, elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and serum HBV DNA≥2,000 IU/ml were randomized 1:1 at baseline to receive PEG-IFN 180 μg/week for 24 weeks followed by LdT 600 mg/day for 24 weeks (PEG-IFN first), or vice versa (LdT first), plus 24-week follow-up; individuals with HCV, HDV or HIV coinfections and lamivudine resistance were excluded. Primary end points were serum HBV DNA<2,000 IU/ml and normal ALT at week 72.

Results: A total of 30 patients (86% male, median age 48 years) were enrolled: mean ±sd baseline serum HBV DNA was 5.56 ±1.4 log IU/ml and ALT was 2.9 ±2.5× upper limit of normal. At end of follow-up (week 72), HBV DNA<2,000 IU/ml was achieved in 13.3% of participants in the PEG-IFN first group versus 46.7% of those in the LdT first group (P=0.046). Mean ±sd ALT levels were significantly lower in the LdT first group (1.3 ±0.9 versus 3.2 ±2.7× upper limit of normal; P=0.03). PEG-IFN dose was reduced in 2 (7%) patients and 1 (7%) patient dropped out due to myalgia.

Conclusions: Sequential treatment with 24 weeks PEG-IFN followed or preceded by 24 weeks of LdT is safe. Virological response rate at week 72 was significantly higher in patients treated with LdT followed by PEG-IFN than vice versa. A sequential antiviral regimen of LdT followed by PEG-IFN, if confirmed in larger series, could improve response rates compared with standard PEG-IFN monotherapy.


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