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Limited sustained response after stopping nucleos(t)ide analogues in patients with chronic hepatitis B: results from a randomised controlled trial (Toronto STOP study)


Objective Although most patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) reach effective virological suppression with long-term nucleos(t)ide analogues (NA) therapy, some might not need to continue treatment for life. In this randomised, controlled, phase IV trial, we evaluated off-therapy outcomes in patients after discontinuing long-term NA therapy.

Design Patients who had received NA therapy for ≥1 year and achieved virological suppression (hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion combined with undetectable hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA ≥12 months in HBeAg-positive patients or undetectable HBV DNA ≥36 months in HBeAg-negative patients) were randomised 2:1 to stop or continue NA therapy for 72 weeks. Sustained disease remission (HBeAg negative, HBV DNA <2000 IU/mL and normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT)) was evaluated at 72 weeks after stopping NA therapy.

Results Among 67 enrolled patients, sustained disease remission was observed in 13/45 (29%) stop versus 18/22 (82%) continue patients. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) loss occurred in two patients (one in each group). The median HBsAg decline from randomisation to week 72 was similar in both groups (0.2 (0.0–0.4) vs 0.1 (0.0–0.2) log IU/mL in stop vs continue patients). Among patients who stopped, 15/45 (33%) had virological or biochemical relapse and 17/45 (38%) were retreated according to predefined criteria. A total of 11/18 (61%) pretreatment HBeAg-positive versus 6/27 (22%) HBeAg-negative patients required retreatment (p=0.01). Fourteen (31%) patients developed ALT >10× upper limit of normal (ULN) and another 7 (16%) had ALT >5× ULN. No patients experienced liver decompensation or died.

Conclusion The findings of this prospective study suggest limited benefit of stopping NA therapy in chronic hepatitis B.

Trial registration number NCT01911156.

  • viral hepatitis
  • discontinuation
  • nucleos(t)ide analogue
  • HBeAg negative
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