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Safer hepatitis B drug


A new study has found an alternative treatment for patients with hepatitis B who do not respond to lamivudine therapy.

Patients who switched to entecavir for a year displayed better clinical improvements without significant side-effects, according to the two-year study conducted by researchers at Toronto General Hospital, Canada, and published in the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases’ journal Hepatology.

Chronic hepatitis B is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide, with infected patients being at increased risk of developing serious liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer — especially if they have high levels of HBV DNA in their blood.

HBV can be treated with lamivudine, but the virus can often become resistant to the drug, resulting in progression of the disease. Another treatment option is adefovir dipivoxil, although it is not as effective.

However, a third drug, entecavir, was found to be safer and more effective in treating patients who do not respond to lamivudine.

“The results demonstrated that patients continue to experience clinical benefit with entecavir therapy beyond one year, while the safety profile remained stable,” the authors report. “A longer duration of treatment and continued treatment of patients may lead to higher rates of virologic response and seroconversion in lamivudine-refractory chronic hepatitis B patients.”

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