If the currently approved hepatitis B drugs do not provide a cure, then how are they helping?
Unmanaged hepatitis B infection causes, in the long run, liver damage and significantly increases the risk of liver cancer. The use of antivirals decreases the progression of liver disease and significantly reduces the risk of liver cancer due to the hepatitis B virus. Antivirals work by slowing down or stopping the virus from reproducing. The less virus in the blood and the liver, the less damage being done to the liver. Once the virus is suppressed, inflammation of liver tissue decreases, which is noted by a lowering of liver enzymes (SGPT/ALT and SGOT/AST). With time, the liver may be able to heal, and some damage may be reversed.
Antivirals such as tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), tenofovir disoproxil (TDF) and entecavir are effective and safe. However, they work only as long as they are taken. Stopping and starting antivirals should be avoided if possible. Most people take one pill every day for years (just like drugs for hypertension, high cholesterol and high blood sugar). Taking doctor-prescribed antivirals can be lifesaving by keeping the liver in the best health possible until a functional cure is available.