Treatment for hepatitis B

new_drug_approvedNot everyone with hepatitis B needs treatment. It is only needed for people with high levels of virus and liver enzymes in the blood. Safe and effective medications are available and fully funded to control hepatitis B. The medicines work by stopping the virus being active and multiplying in the liver.

The treatment is a single tablet taken once a day, which has no side effects. It will prevent further damage to the liver and will also reverse any scarring already present.

Having six-monthly blood tests will help determine whether the hepatitis B has become active and if you need treatment. However, hepatitis B cannot be cured and once you begin treatment you will need to take it for the rest of your life.

Drugs used in New Zealand

There are a number of drugs used to treat chronic hepatitis B:

  • Entecavir is an oral antiviral drug used in adults who have active virus and liver damage. Entecavir is funded as a first-line therapy for people with chronic hepatitis B. Nearly everyone who takes enectavir achieves viral suppression (undetectable levels of hepatitis B) and biochemical response.
  • Tenofovir is an antiviral drug. It is an oral tablet taken once a day. Tenofovir has replaced adefovir in New Zealand, as the first-line therapy for lamivudine-resistant hepatitis B infection. This is the preferred treatment during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Pegylated interferon (Pegasys) boosts the body’s immune system and changes the virus’ ability to multiply. It is a man- made version of a protein, called interferon, our bodies naturally produce to fight viral infections. The body does not always have enough naturally present to fight the hepatitis B virus on its own. Pegylated interferon is injected once a week for up to 48 weeks.

For more detail please read our information sheet about hepatitis B treatment.

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© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016