Affiliation: Via dell'Arcangelo Michele 4, 71100 Foggia, Italy.
Three hundred and fifty million people worldwide are estimated to be chronically infected with hepatitis B virus. 15%-40% of these subjects will develop cirrhosis, liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma during their life. Approved drugs for chronic hepatitis B treatment include: standard interferon-alpha 2b, pegylated interferon-alpha 2a, lamivudine, adefovir dipivoxil, and entecavir. Unfortunately, these agents are not effective in all patients and are associated with distinct side effects. Interferons have numerous side effects and nucleoside or nucleotide analogues, which are well tolerated, need to be used for prolonged periods, even indefinitely. Telbivudine is a novel, orally administered nucleoside analogue for use in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and it was approved by the FDA in late 2006. In contrast to other nucleoside analogues, Telbivudine has not been associated with inhibition of mammalian DNA polymerase with mitochondrial toxicity. Telbivudine has demonstrated potent activity against hepatitis B with a significantly higher rate of response and superior viral suppression compared with lamivudine, the standard treatment, and adefovir. Telbivudine has been generally well tolerated, with a low adverse effect profile, and at its effective dose, no dose-limiting toxicity has been observed. The aim of this review is to evidence the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic characteristics of this drug and to evaluate its efficacy and tolerance.