Pharmacy Clinical Pearl of the Day: Hepatitis B

Chronic HBV increases the risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer, and cirrhosis.

Clinical Pearl of the Day: Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Insight:

  • For some people, HBV infection becomes chronic, meaning it lasts more than 6 months.
  • Having chronic HBV increases the risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer, or cirrhosis—a condition that permanently scars of the liver.
  • A vaccine can prevent HBV, but there's no cure for those with the condition.
  • Symptoms may include abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weakness, and fatigue.
  • Causes of HBV could be sexual contact, sharing of needles, accidental needle sticks, and transition from mother to child.
  • Risk factors may include having unprotected sex, sharing needles during intravenous drug use, same gender sex, infant born to an infected mother, and environmental exposures.
  • Diagnosis may include blood test, liver ultrasound, and liver biopsy.
  • Treatment may include an injection of immunoglobulin (an antibody) given within 12 hours of exposure to the virus, which may help protect patients from getting sick with HBV.
    • Other treatments may include antiviral medications such as entecavir (Baraclude), tenofovir (Viread), lamivudine (Epivir), adefovir (Hepsera) and telbivudine (Tyzeka). Interferon alfa-2b can also be used for treatment of this infection. Liver transplant may be an option as well for cases in which the liver has been severely damaged by the infection.

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