Background: Treatment with interferon-alpha has been shown to be effective in one-third of hepatitis B e antigen-positive chronic hepatitis B patients, but is clinically associated with relevant adverse events. Aim: To investigate the safety of pegylated interferon alpha-2b in 300 hepatitis B e antigen-positive patients with compensated liver disease. Methods: Patients were treated with pegylated interferon alpha-2b for 52 weeks combined with either lamivudine 100 mg/day or placebo. Pegylated interferon alpha-2b was administered for 100 μg once a week for 32 weeks; thereafter, the dose was reduced to 50 μg once a week. Adverse events and their effect on study medication were reported at monthly visits in a standardized way. Results: The most frequently reported side-effects were flu-like syndrome (68%), headache (40%), fatigue (39%), myalgia (29%) and local reaction at the injection site (29%), These symptoms typically occurred within the first month of therapy and subsided during the course of therapy. Neutropenia and thrombocytopenia induced by pegylated Interferon alpha-2b increased the risk of infections and bleeding complications, but these complications were rare and mild. The frequency of all side-effects was not different between patients treated with pegylated interferon alpha-2b combined with lamivudine or placebo. In 69 (22%) patients the dose of pegylated interferon alpha-2b was reduced prematurely. Of these dose reductions, 36 (52%) were because of neutropenia. Therapy was discontinued in 28 (8%) patients. The most frequent reasons for early discontinuation were psychiatric side-effects (depression, psychosis) and flu-like symptoms. Multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that low neutrophil count at baseline and cirrhosis were independent predictors of dose reduction or therapy discontinuation. Conclusion: We conclude that in patients with chronic hepatitis B and compensated liver disease prolonged pegylated interferon alpha-2b therapy is safe, and that pre-existent cirrhosis and neutropenia are the most important predictors of dose reduction or early treatment discontinuation.

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Journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
van Zonneveld, M, Gerken, G, de Man, R.A, Hansen, B.E, Schalm, S.W, Janssen, H.L.A, … So, T.M.K. (2005). The safety of pegylated interferon alpha-2b in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B: Predictive factors for dose reduction and treatment discontinuation. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 21(9), 1163–1171. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2036.2005.02453.x