Treatment for hepatitis B
Not 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 most common treatment is a single tablet taken once a day. This will prevent further damage to the liver and reverse any existing scarring. it has no side effects.
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. Once you begin treatment you may need to continue it for many years.
Drugs used in New Zealand
There are a number of drugs used to treat chronic hepatitis B:
- Entecavir is an oral anti-viral 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 anti-viral drug. It is an oral tablet taken once a day. Tenofovir has replaced adefovir in New Zealand and is the preferred treatment during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as it’s known to be safe for babies.
- 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, which 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.