New Test Determines Response to Hepatitis B Treatment

Quest Diagnostics launches a test that determines patient response to costly hepatitis B virus drugs.

Quest Diagnostics recently launched a new test that allows physicians to determine a patient’s response to hepatitis B virus (HBV) treatment. A more inclusive test will likely lead to improved patient outcomes, and higher cure rates, according to a press release from Quest.

This is the first test of its kind, and will help physicians provide more effective treatment options for the 2.2 million patients with HBV, according to the press release.

The HBsAg test is the standard measure used to diagnose patients with HBV. The novel test measures the presence and quantity of the virus in the blood, which will alert the physician if the patient is responding to treatment.

Since this test provides additional insight into the patient’s response, it will allow physicians to alter treatment to reduce the risk of reactivation or progression, according to the release.

This expansive test also provides the opportunity to lower drug costs. Since hepatitis treatment drugs are high cost, staying on a treatment regimen that is not working only drives up costs, and patients may also experience side effects for an ineffective treatment.

"The widespread availability of quantitative HBsAg testing through Quest for use by hepatologists, gastroenterologists and other specialists will advance the care of HBV-infected patients," said Robert G. Gish, MD, medical director, Hepatitis B Foundation and principal at Robert G. Gish Consultants LLC. "The ability to reliably quantify surface antigen will enhance clinicians' ability to stage patient's disease state, provide prognostic information and help guide care with current antivirals and new therapies that are in the development pipeline."

The standard treatment for HBV is with antiviral or interferon alpha drugs. However, patients with HBV have a lower cure rate due to the nature of the virus, and poor compliance to longer-term treatments.

Since viral load becomes suppressed during treatment, resolved HBV can only be determined by clearance of HBsAg, which is the guideline set by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Quest has a multitude of tests and services available for HBV, such as genotyping, viral load and resistance testing, treatment, and monitoring. They also work with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify screening, diagnosis, and treatment trends based on Quest’s database, according to the press release.

"An estimated 850,000 to 2.2 million persons in the U.S. are infected with chronic hepatitis B. While there are effective therapies that can functionally cure HBV infection, physicians in the U.S. have lacked tools that help predict individualized patient response to those treatments," said Rick L. Pesano, MD, PhD, vice president, research and development, Quest Diagnostics. "With this new test capability, physicians can better develop tailored treatment plans and monitor HBV-infected patients to help prevent progression and better their chance for long-term immunity."