Background: International guidelines recommend screening for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection prior to administration of rituximab, due to high risk of HBV reactivation in at-risk patients. Aims: To determine: (i) adherence to the South Australian (SA) protocol for HBV screening; (ii) HBV prevalence in patients receiving rituximab; and (iii) outcomes of patients at risk of HBV reactivation. Methods: All patients commenced on rituximab at the six major SA public hospitals during a 12-month period were included in the study. Adherence was assessed by documentation of both hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) prior to initiation of rituximab. Patients were observed for a minimum of 6 months following rituximab initiation. Results: Four hundred and thirty eight patients were included in the study. The main indication for rituximab therapy was haematological malignancy (76.0%). Two hundred and nine (47.7%) failed to receive appropriate HBV screening, 86 (19.6%) had neither HBsAg nor HBcAb performed, and 119 (27.2%) had only HBsAg performed. The identified prevalence of at-risk cases (either HBsAg- or HBcAb-positive) within the study population was 4.6% (20/438 cases). One case of HBV reactivation was identified, but none led to acute liver failure, transplantation or death. Conclusions: Poor adherence to HBV screening protocols suggests the need for targeted clinician education and system redesign. While the rate of reactivation was low, the prevalence of at-risk patients in this population was high and justifies further initiatives to increase adherence rates to HBV screening pre-rituximab.
- Hepatitis B