BACKGROUND: Adefovir dipivoxil, a nucleotide analogue, demonstrated clinically significant antiviral activity in patients with chronic hepatitis B in phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. METHODS: We randomly assigned 185 patients with chronic hepatitis B who were negative for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) to receive either 10 mg of adefovir dipivoxil or placebo once daily for 48 weeks in a 2:1 ratio and a double-blind manner. The primary end point was histologic improvement. RESULTS: At week 48, 64 percent of patients who had base-line liver-biopsy specimens available in the adefovir dipivoxil group had improvement in histologic liver abnormalities (77 of 121), as compared with 33 percent of patients in the placebo group (19 of 57, P<0.001). Serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA levels were reduced to fewer than 400 copies per milliliter in 51 percent of patients in the adefovir dipivoxil group (63 of 123) and in 0 percent of those in the placebo group (0 of 61, P<0.001). The median decrease in log-transformed HBV DNA levels was greater with adefovir dipivoxil treatment than with placebo (3.91 vs. 1.35 log copies per milliliter, P<0.001). Alanine aminotransferase levels had normalized at week 48 in 72 percent of patients receiving adefovir dipivoxil (84 of 116), as compared with 29 percent of those receiving placebo (17 of 59, P<0.001). No HBV polymerase mutations associated with resistance to adefovir were identified. The safety profile of adefovir dipivoxil was similar to that of placebo. CONCLUSIONS: In patients with HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B, 48 weeks of adefovir dipivoxil treatment resulted in significant histologic, virologic, and biochemical improvement, with an adverse-event profile similar to that of placebo. There was no evidence of the emergence of adefovir-resistant HBV polymerase mutations.
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