For the treatment of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) two drugs have been licensed world-wide: interferon-alpha (IFN) and lamivudine. Both drugs significantly increase the hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion rate, but a sustained treatment response occurs in less than 40% of patients. To explore whether there is an additional benefit of combining these two drugs, we reviewed the literature on lamivudine-IFN combination therapy in comparison to the two monotherapies in compensated, HBeAg-positive, CHB patients. We focussed on two clinically relevant outcome measures: HBeAg seroconversion, and change in liver histology. Candidates for lamivudine-IFN combination therapy were, previously untreated, patients with moderately elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT). Such regimen should still be considered experimental. Viral kinetics may provide insight into how long therapy should be continued; prolongation of therapy to 52 weeks currently appears a reasonable approach. According to principles of anti-viral therapy today, simultaneously dosing of both drugs is to be preferred, since rapid maximal virus suppression is thought to be essential to prevent drug resistance and enhance seroconversion. From an immunological point of view, pre-treatment with lamivudine or IFN may alter the virus-host balance and set the stage for the other drug to enhance the effect of treatment. Further clinical research on lamivudine-IFN combination therapy appears warranted.

, , , ,,
Antiviral Research
Department of Virology

van Nunen, A. B., Janssen, H., Wolters, L., Niesters, B., de Man, R., & Schalm, S. (2001). Is combination therapy with lamivudine and interferon-alpha superior to monotherapy with either drug?. Antiviral Research, 52(2), 139–146. doi:10.1016/S0166-3542(01)00178-4