Exacerbations of hepatitis: Spontaneous exacerbations in chronic hepatitis B are relatively common and are characterised by transient increases in serum ALT. After initiating antiviral therapy, serum ALT may increase in some patients as serum HBV DNA levels decline. Among entecavir-treated patients on-treatment exacerbations had a median time of onset of 4-5 weeks. In patients with compensated liver disease, these increases in serum ALT are generally not accompanied by an increase in serum bilirubin concentrations or hepatic decompensation. Patients with advanced liver disease or cirrhosis may be at a higher risk for hepatic decompensation following hepatitis exacerbation, and therefore should be monitored closely during therapy.
Acute exacerbation of hepatitis has also been reported in patients who have discontinued hepatitis B therapy. Post-treatment exacerbations are usually associated with rising HBV DNA, and the majority appears to be self-limited. However, severe exacerbations, including fatalities, have been reported.
Among entecavir-treated nucleoside naïve patients, post-treatment exacerbations had a median time to onset of 23-24 weeks, and most were reported in HBeAg negative patients. Hepatic function should be monitored at repeated intervals with both clinical and laboratory follow-up for at least 6 months after discontinuation of hepatitis B therapy. If appropriate, resumption of hepatitis B therapy may be warranted.
Patients with decompensated liver disease: A higher rate of serious hepatic adverse events (regardless of causality) has been observed in patients with decompensated liver disease, in particular in those with Child-Turcotte-Pugh (CTP) class C disease, compared with rates in patients with compensated liver function. Also, patients with decompensated liver disease may be at higher risk for lactic acidosis and for specific renal adverse events such as hepatorenal syndrome. Therefore, clinical and laboratory parameters should be closely monitored in this patient population.
Lactic acidosis and severe hepatomegaly with steatosis: Occurrences of lactic acidosis (in the absence of hypoxaemia), sometimes fatal, usually associated with severe hepatomegaly and hepatic steatosis, have been reported with the use of nucleoside analogues. As entecavir is a nucleoside analogue, this risk cannot be excluded. Treatment with nucleoside analogues should be discontinued when rapidly elevating aminotransferase levels, progressive hepatomegaly or metabolic/lactic acidosis of unknown aetiology occur. Benign digestive symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, might be indicative of lactic acidosis development. Severe cases, sometimes with fatal outcome, were associated with pancreatitis, liver failure/hepatic steatosis, renal failure and higher levels of serum lactate. Caution should be exercised when prescribing nucleoside analogues to any patient (particularly obese women) with hepatomegaly, hepatitis or other known risk factors for liver disease. These patients should be followed closely.
To differentiate between elevations in aminotransferases due to response to treatment and increases potentially related to lactic acidosis, physicians should ensure that changes in ALT are associated with improvements in other laboratory markers of chronic hepatitis B.
Resistance and specific precaution for lamivudine-refractory patients: Mutations in the HBV polymerase that encode lamivudine-resistance substitutions may lead to the subsequent emergence of secondary substitutions, including those associated with entecavir associated resistance (ETVr). In a small percentage of lamivudine-refractory patients, ETVr substitutions at residues rtT184, rtS202 or rtM250 were present at baseline. Patients with lamivudine-resistant HBV are at higher risk of developing subsequent entecavir resistance than patients without lamivudine resistance. Virological response should be frequently monitored in the lamivudine-refractory population and appropriate resistance testing should be performed. In patients with a suboptimal virological response after 24 weeks of treatment with entecavir, a modification of treatment should be considered. When starting therapy in patients with a documented history of lamivudine-resistant HBV, combination use of entecavir plus a second antiviral agent (which does not share cross-resistance with either lamivudine or entecavir) should be considered in preference to entecavir monotherapy.
Pre-existing lamivudine-resistant HBV is associated with an increased risk for subsequent entecavir resistance regardless of the degree of liver disease; in patients with decompensated liver disease, virologic breakthrough may be associated with serious clinical complications of the underlying liver disease. Therefore, in patients with both decompensated liver disease and lamivudine-resistant HBV, combination use of entecavir plus a second antiviral agent (which does not share cross-resistance with either lamivudine or entecavir) should be considered in preference to entecavir monotherapy.
Liver transplant recipients: Renal function should be carefully evaluated before and during entecavir therapy in liver transplant recipients receiving ciclosporin or tacrolimus.
Co-infection with hepatitis C or D: There are no data on the efficacy of entecavir in patients co-infected with hepatitis C or D virus.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/HBV co-infected patients not receiving concomitant antiretroviral therapy: Entecavir has not been evaluated in HIV/HBV co-infected patients not concurrently receiving effective HIV treatment. Emergence of HIV resistance has been observed when entecavir was used to treat chronic hepatitis B infection in patients with HIV infection not receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Therefore, therapy with entecavir should not be used for HIV/HBV co-infected patients who are not receiving HAART. Entecavir has not been studied as a treatment for HIV infection and is not recommended for this use.
HIV/HBV co-infected patients receiving concomitant antiretroviral therapy: Entecavir has been studied in adults with HIV/HBV co-infection receiving a lamivudine-containing HAART regimen. No data are available on the efficacy of entecavir in HBeAg-negative patients co-infected with HIV. There are limited data on patients co-infected with HIV who have low CD4 cell counts (< 200 cells/mm3).
General: Patients should be advised that therapy with entecavir has not been proven to reduce the risk of transmission of HBV and therefore appropriate precautions should still be taken.
Effects on ability to drive and use machines: No studies on the effects on the ability to drive and use machines have been performed. Dizziness, fatigue and somnolence are common side effects which may impair the ability to drive and use machines.
Renal impairment: Dosage adjustment is recommended for patients with renal impairment. The proposed dose modifications are based on extrapolation of limited data, and their safety and effectiveness have not been clinically evaluated. Therefore, virological response should be closely monitored.
Use in Children: Entecavir should be used in these patients only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the child (e.g. resistance). Since some paediatric patients may require long-term or even lifetime management of chronic active hepatitis B, consideration should be given to the impact of entecavir on future treatment options.