Background & Aims: Nucleos(t)ide reverse transcriptase inhibitors do not completely suppress HBV DNA in chronic HBV infection (cHBV). Vebicorvir (VBR) is an investigational core inhibitor that interferes with multiple aspects of HBV replication. This phase II trial evaluated the safety and efficacy of VBR in combination with entecavir (ETV) in treatment-naïve patients with cHBV. Methods: HBeAg-positive, treatment-naïve patients without cirrhosis were randomised 1:1 in a double-blind manner to once-daily VBR 300 mg+ETV 0.5 mg or placebo (PBO)+ETV 0.5 mg for 24 weeks. The primary endpoint was change in mean log10 HBV DNA from Baseline to Week 12 and 24. Results: All patients in both treatment groups (PBO+ETV: 12/12; VBR+ETV: 13/13) completed the study. At Week 12, VBR+ETV led to a greater mean (SD) reduction from Baseline in log10 IU/ml HBV DNA (–4.45 [1.03]) vs. PBO+ETV (–3.30 [1.18]; p = 0.0077). At Week 24, VBR+ETV led to a greater reduction from Baseline in log10 IU/ml HBV DNA (–5.33 [1.59]) vs. PBO+ETV (–4.20 [0.98]; p = 0.0084). Greater mean reductions in pregenomic RNA were observed at Week 12 and 24 in patients receiving VBR+ETV vs. PBO+ETV (p <0.0001 and p <0.0001). Changes in viral antigens were similar in both groups. No drug interaction between VBR and ETV was observed. Two patients experienced HBV DNA rebound during treatment, with no resistance breakthrough detected. The safety of VBR+ETV was similar to PBO+ETV. All treatment-emergent adverse events and laboratory abnormalities were Grade 1/2. There were no deaths, serious adverse events, or evidence of drug-induced liver injury. Conclusions: In this 24-week study, VBR+ETV provided additive antiviral activity over PBO+ETV in treatment-naïve patients with cHBV, with a favourable safety and tolerability profile. Clinical trial number: NCT03577171 Lay summary: Hepatitis B is a long-lasting viral infection of the liver. Current treatments can suppress hepatitis B virus but do not offer the opportunity of cure, hence, new treatment approaches are required. Herein, we show that the combination of the novel core inhibitor vebicorvir with an existing antiviral (entecavir) in treatment-naïve patients chronically infected with hepatitis B virus demonstrated greater antiviral activity than entecavir alone. Additionally, vebicorvir was safe and well tolerated. Thus, further studies evaluating its potential role in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B are warranted.
- chronic hepatitis B virus
- core inhibitor
- nucleos(t)ide reverse transcriptase inhibitor
- phase 2