Recent studies of entecavir found the drug to be more effective than the standard treatment of lamivudine for hepatitis B. Study results, published in the March 9, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that patients taking entecavir did not develop a resistance, a common concern with long-term use of lamivudine. In one study, 715 hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive patients were randomly assigned to receive either entecavir or lamivudine. After 48 weeks, 72% of the entecavir patients and 62% of the lamivudine patients showed improvements in their blood tests; 67% of entecavir patients had undetectable levels of hepatitis B DNA in their blood, compared with 36% of lamivudine patients. Another study investigated the effects of the 2 drugs on 648 randomly assigned HBeAg-negative patients. After 48 weeks, 70% of entecavir patients and 61% of lamivudine patients showed improvement. Once again, more entecavir patients showed undetectable amounts of hepatitis B in their blood than did the lamivudine group90%, compared with 72%. No serious side effects were noted with either drug. None of the entecavir patients developed a resistance during the 2-year study.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.