Ursodeoxycholic acid for primary biliary cirrhosis

Department of Hepatology, Clinic of Gastroenterology, Clinical Centre of Serbia, Koste Todorovica 2, Belgrade, Serbia, 11000.
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (Impact Factor: 5.7). 12/2012; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000551.pub3

ABSTRACT Ursodeoxycholic acid is administered to patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, a chronic progressive inflammatory autoimmune-mediated liver disease with unknown aetiology. Despite its controversial effects, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved its usage for primary biliary cirrhosis.
To assess the beneficial and harmful effects of ursodeoxycholic acid in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.
We searched for eligible randomised trials in The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded, LILACS,, and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. The literature search was performed until January 2012.
Randomised clinical trials assessing the beneficial and harmful effects of ursodeoxycholic acid versus placebo or 'no intervention' in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.
Two authors independently extracted data. Continuous data were analysed using mean difference (MD) and standardised mean difference (SMD). Dichotomous data were analysed using risk ratio (RR). Meta-analyses were conducted using both a random-effects model and a fixed-effect model, with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Random-effects model meta-regression was used to assess the effects of covariates across the trials. Trial sequential analysis was used to assess risk of random errors (play of chance). Risks of bias (systematic error) in the included trials were assessed according to Cochrane methodology bias domains.
Sixteen randomised clinical trials with 1447 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis were included. One trial had low risk of bias, and the remaining fifteen had high risk of bias. Fourteen trials compared ursodeoxycholic acid with placebo and two trials compared ursodeoxycholic acid with 'no intervention'. The percentage of patients with advanced primary biliary cirrhosis at baseline varied from 15% to 83%, with a median of 51%. The duration of the trials varied from 3 to 92 months, with a median of 24 months. The results showed no significant difference in effect between ursodeoxycholic acid and placebo or 'no intervention' on all-cause mortality (45/699 (6.4%) versus 46/692 (6.6%); RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.42, I² = 0%; 14 trials); on all-cause mortality or liver transplantation (86/713 (12.1%) versus 89/706 (12.6%); RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.25, I² = 15%; 15 trials); on serious adverse events (94/695 (13.5%) versus 107/687 (15.6%); RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.68 to 1.12, I² = 23%; 14 trials); or on non-serious adverse events (27/643 (4.2%) versus 18/634 (2.8%); RR 1.46, 95% CI 0.83 to 2.56, I² = 0%; 12 trials). The random-effects model meta-regression showed that the risk of bias of the trials, disease severity of patients at entry, ursodeoxycholic acid dosage, and trial duration were not significantly associated with the intervention effects on all-cause mortality, or on all-cause mortality or liver transplantation. Ursodeoxycholic acid did not influence the number of patients with pruritus (168/321 (52.3%) versus 166/309 (53.7%); RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.09, I² = 0%; 6 trials) or with fatigue (170/252 (64.9%) versus 174/244 (71.3%); RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.00, I² = 62%; 4 trials). Two trials reported the number of patients with jaundice and showed a significant effect of ursodeoxycholic acid versus placebo or no intervention in a fixed-effect meta-analysis (5/99 (5.1%) versus 15/99 (15.2%); RR 0.35, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.90, I² = 51%; 2 trials). The result was not supported by the random-effects meta-analysis (RR 0.56, 95% CI 0.06 to 4.95). Portal pressure, varices, bleeding varices, ascites, and hepatic encephalopathy were not significantly affected by ursodeoxycholic acid. Ursodeoxycholic acid significantly decreased serum bilirubin concentration (MD -8.69 µmol/l, 95% CI -13.90 to -3.48, I² = 0%; 881 patients; 9 trials) and activity of serum alkaline phosphatases (MD -257.09 U/L, 95% CI -306.25 to -207.92, I² = 0%; 754 patients, 9 trials) compared with placebo or no intervention. These results were supported by trial sequential analysis. Ursodeoxycholic acid also seemed to improve serum levels of gamma-glutamyltransferase, aminotransferases, total cholesterol, and plasma immunoglobulin M concentration. Ursodeoxycholic acid seemed to have a beneficial effect on worsening of histological stage (random; 66/281 (23.5%) versus 103/270 (38.2%); RR 0.62, 95% CI 0.44 to 0.88, I² = 35%; 7 trials).
This systematic review did not demonstrate any significant benefits of ursodeoxycholic acid on all-cause mortality, all-cause mortality or liver transplantation, pruritus, or fatigue in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. Ursodeoxycholic acid seemed to have a beneficial effect on liver biochemistry measures and on histological progression compared with the control group. All but one of the included trials had high risk of bias, and there are risks of outcome reporting bias and risks of random errors as well. Randomised trials with low risk of bias and low risks of random errors examining the effects of ursodeoxycholic acid for primary biliary cirrhosis are needed.

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    ABSTRACT: Despite the presumed immunological pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis, no clear or even harmful consequences resulted from some specific treatments addressed to modify the immunological condition. However, ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA; 13-16 mg/kg/d) has clear favorable effects not only by improving biochemical cholestasis, but also by delaying the histological progression. Long -term treatment with UDCA is associated with excellent survival, free of transplantation in cases showing biochemical response at one year. In the remaining patients, data on the effect of fibrates, budesonide, or obeticholic acid are encouraging. Pruritus is usually managed using resins; further steps are needed in resistant cases with the use of rifampicin, naltrexone, sertraline, or invasive procedures such as albumin dialysis. Osteoporosis, which is highly prevalent in patients with deep and prolonged cholestasis, improves with bisphosphonates; current data indicate that both weekly alendronate and monthly ibandronate increase bone mass in patients with osteoporosis. Nutritional and fat-vitamin supplementation is also mandatory in patients with severe cholestasis.
    Seminars in Liver Disease 08/2014; 34(3):341-351. · 5.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) can lead to end-stage liver disease and death. Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) treatment can normalize serum liver enzymes in PBC, and such UDCA-responsive patients have a similar life expectancy as age and sex-matched controls. Nearly up to 50% of the patients with PBC, depending on sex and age at diagnosis, show an incomplete biochemical response to UDCA and require additional/alternative treatment. The purpose of this review is to critically evaluate the molecular mechanisms and clinical benefit of fibrate treatment in these patients. Fibrates have anticholestatic, anti-inflammatory, and antifibrotic effects in animal and in-vitro studies. The mechanisms that underlie these effects are complementary, and largely mediated through activation of peroxisome proliferator activated receptors. Fibrate treatment ameliorated liver biochemical tests in UDCA unresponsive patients, either as mono-therapy or in combination with UDCA. These results, however, were obtained in case series and small pilot studies. The results of phase III studies, such as the Bezafibrate in Combination With Ursodeoxycholic Acid in Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (BEZURSO) trial, are currently awaited. A considerable body of observational evidence supports the safety and efficacy of fibrate treatment in PBC patients with an incomplete response to UDCA. These results encourage the evaluation of its effects on liver-related morbidity and mortality in larger clinical trials.
    Current opinion in gastroenterology 03/2014; · 4.33 Impact Factor


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Jun 3, 2014