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This study aimed to evaluate the long-term efficacy of entecavir (ETV) in adefovir (ADV)-refractory chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients with prior lamivudine (LMV) resistance. A total of 55 ADV-refractory CHB patients with prior LMV resistance, who received rescue therapy with ETV 1 mg daily for at least 12 months, were consecutively enrolled and analysed. Forty-four patients were men, and their median age was 47 (25–69). Ten patients had liver cirrhosis and 46 patients were positive for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg). Median hepatitis B virus DNA levels were 6.6 (4.3–8.0) log10 copies/mL, and the median duration of ETV therapy was 24 (12–47) months. Cumulative virologic response rates at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months were 18%, 29%, 58% and 75%, respectively. HBeAg loss occurred in 10 (21.7%) of 46 HBeAg-positive patients. In multivariate analysis, only initial virologic response at 3 months remained as an independent predictor for virologic response (RR 3.143; 95% CI 1.387–7.120; P = 0.006). The patients with a virological response at 3 months had not only a significantly higher probability of achieving a virologic response (P < 0.001) but also lower probability of experiencing a virologic breakthrough (P = 0.043) than the patients without an early response. Viral breakthrough was observed in 29 patients during the follow-up period. Cumulative breakthrough rates at 6, 12, 24 and 36 months were 0%, 15%, 45% and 73%, respectively. ETV monotherapy may be considerably efficacious in cases with an initial virological response but its efficacy is attenuated by frequent emergence of ETV resistance in ADV-refractory CHB patients with prior LMV resistance.