FDA Drug Safety Communication, Direct-Acting Antivirals for Hepatitis C - Risk of Hepatitis B Reactivating

PUBLISHED: Oct 4, 2016

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning about the risk of hepatitis B virus (HBV) becoming an active infection again in any patient who has a current or previous infection with HBV and is treated with certain direct-acting antiviral (DAA) medicines for hepatitis C virus. In a few cases, HBV reactivation in patients treated with DAA medicines resulted in serious liver problems or death. HBV reactivation usually occurred within 4-8 weeks.

As a result, the FDA is requiring a Boxed Warning, their most prominent warning, about the risk of HBV reactivation to be added to the drug labels of these DAAs directing health care professionals to screen and monitor for HBV in all patients receiving DAA treatment. This warning will also be included in the patient information leaflet or Medication Guides for these medicines.

Direct-acting antiviral medicines are used to treat chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, an infection that can last a lifetime. These medicines reduce the amount of HCV in the body by preventing HCV from multiplying, and in most cases, they cure HCV. Without treatment, HCV can lead to serious liver problems including cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death (see List of Direct-Acting Antivirals in the FDA Drug Safety Communication, link is below.)

The FDA identified 24 cases of HBV reactivation reported to the FDA and from the published literature in HCV/HBV co-infected patients treated with DAAs during the 31 months from November 22, 2013 to July 18, 2016. This number includes only cases submitted to FDA, so there are likely additional cases about which FDA is unaware. Of the cases reported, two patients died and one required a liver transplant. HBV reactivation was not reported as an adverse event in the clinical trials submitted for the DAA approvals because patients with HBV co-infection were excluded from the trials.

Health care professionals should screen all patients for evidence of current or prior HBV infection before starting treatment with DAAs, and monitor patients using blood tests for HBV flare-ups or reactivation during treatment and post-treatment follow-up.

Patients should be instructed to inform health care professional if there is a history of hepatitis B infection or other liver problems before being treated for hepatitis C. Do not stop taking your DAA medicine without first talking to your health care professional. Stopping treatment early could result in your virus becoming less responsive to certain hepatitis C medicines. Read the patient information leaflet or Medication Guide that comes with each new prescription because the information may have changed. Contact your health care professional immediately if you develop fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, yellow eyes or skin, or light-colored stools, as these may be signs of serious liver problems.

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program.

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