1Foundation IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Milan, Italy.
2CRC "A. M. and A. Migliavacca" Center for Liver Disease, Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, University of Milan, Milan, Italy.
Chronic hepatitis delta (CHD) affects approximately 10-20 million people worldwide and represents the most severe form of chronic viral hepatitis, as it is characterized by high rates of progression to cirrhosis and its complications (end-stage liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma). In the last 30 years, the only treatment option for CHD has been represented by the off-label administration of Interferon (or Pegylated Interferon)-alpha: antiviral treatment, however, resulted in suboptimal (20-30%) virological response and was burdened by several side effects, de facto contraindicating Interferon (IFN) administration in patients with more advanced liver disease. Recently, Bulevirtide (BLV), a first-in-class HBV-HDV entry inhibitor blocking Na+ -taurocholate co-transporting polypeptide (NTCP), has provided very promising efficacy data in Phase II and Phase III (interim analysis) trials as well as in preliminary real-life reports. In July 2020, BLV has granted conditional approval by EMA for treatment of compensated CHD, at the dose of 2 mg/day by self-administered subcutaneous injections. In Phase II and Phase III trials, BLV was evaluated at different doses (2 vs. 10 mg/day) for 24 or 48 weeks, either in monotherapy or in combination with PegIFN. Administration of BLV monotherapy for 24 or 48 weeks resulted in 50%-83% virological response (HDV RNA ≥ 2 Log decline) rates and 45%-78% ALT normalization. Combination therapy with PegIFN provided synergistic effects. These results were replicated in real-life studies and confirmed also in patients with advanced cirrhosis and clinically significant portal hypertension. BLV treatment was optimally tolerated, resulting only in an asymptomatic increase of bile acids.