News Release

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NIH to hold press conference on October 22 following Consensus Development Conference on Management of Hepatitis B

Panel will weigh the benefits and harms of management strategies

Hepatitis B is a major cause of liver disease worldwide, ranking as a substantial cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer. Approximately 1.25 million people are chronically infected with the virus in the United States, resulting in 3,000 to 5,000 deaths each year. The incomplete understanding of the natural history of the disease, coupled with multiple conflicting guidelines, make the management of this complex disease challenging. These issues will be addressed at the upcoming NIH Consensus Development Conference: Management of Hepatitis B, October 20-22, 2008.

What: Following two days of expert presentation, weighing of evidence, and audience commentary, the panel will present their statement at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, October 22. The statement will provide the panel’s assessment of what we know and what we need to learn to effectively manage hepatitis B across diverse patient groups. A press conference will follow at 2 p.m.

Reporters registering for the conference as media will receive the conference panel’s draft consensus statement and a press release highlighting their findings on Oct. 22 as soon as they are available. Register online by visiting

The conference presentations, open discussions, and the panel’s statement will focus on these questions:

  1. What is the current burden of hepatitis B?
  2. What is the natural history of hepatitis B?
  3. What are the benefits and risks of the current therapeutic options for hepatitis B?
  4. Which persons with hepatitis B should be treated?
  5. What measures are appropriate to monitor therapy and assess outcomes?
  6. What are the greatest needs and opportunities for future research on hepatitis B?

When: Press conference | Wednesday, October 22 — 2 p.m.

Monday, October 20, 2008 — 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 — 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 — 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

All sessions are free and open to the public.

Where: NIH main campus or online ( Attend the press conference in person at the Natcher Conference Center, NIH Main Campus - Building 45, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Maryland 20892; or participate remotely via the webcast at Reporters will have the opportunity to submit questions via e-mail beginning at 1:30 p.m. on October 22.

Campus visitor information (

Why: Although an effective hepatitis B vaccine is available, it does not protect those who already have the infection. Chronic hepatitis B occurs more frequently in high-risk groups, including Asian-Americans, emigrants from areas of the world where hepatitis B is common (China, Korea, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Micronesia), men who have sex with men, injection drug users, and recipients of blood and blood products before screening procedures were implemented in 1986. In non-protected individuals, transmission can result from exposure to infectious blood or body fluids containing blood. A major impediment to diagnosis is that many infected individuals are either asymptomatic or experience only non-specific symptoms of disease, such as fatigue or muscle ache.

For approximately 90 percent of adults, acute infection with the hepatitis B virus is resolved by the body’s immune system, and does not cause long-term problems. The transition from acute to chronic infection appears to occur when the immune system does not effectively destroy and clear virus-infected cells. This leads to persistently detectable hepatitis B DNA and antigens in the blood, as well as antibodies produced by the body in an attempt to combat the infection.

Questions remain as to which groups of patients benefit from therapy and at which point in the course of their disease. Specific recommendations for hepatitis B therapy are limited by a lack of reliable long-term safety and efficacy information. This is a difficult decision for physicians and patients, as treatments are expensive and may have bothersome, if not harmful, effects on patients; left untreated, however, chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and other serious liver problems.

Background: The conference is presented through the NIH Consensus Development Program. A fact sheet describing the conference process and additional hepatitis B resources are available at

A systematic literature review on the management of hepatitis B has been prepared under contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The executive summary will be released on October 22 at; the full report will be available online shortly thereafter.

For More Information: Conference agenda, speakers, logistics, and online registration are available at

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