JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Ursodeoxycholic acid for primary biliary cirrhosis

Yan Gong, Zhi Bi Huang, Erik Christensen, Christian Gluud
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008 July 16, (3): CD000551
18677775

BACKGROUND: Primary biliary cirrhosis is an uncommon autoimmune liver disease with unknown aetiology. Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has been used for primary biliary cirrhosis, but the effects remain controversial.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the benefits and harms of UDCA on patients with primary biliary cirrhosis against placebo or no intervention.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials on The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCI-EXPANDED, The Chinese Biomedical CD Database, LILACS, and the references of identified studies. The last search was performed in January 2007.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised clinical trials evaluating UDCA versus placebo or no intervention in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: The primary outcomes were mortality and mortality or liver transplantation. Binary outcomes were reported as odds ratio (OR) or relative risk (RR) and continuous outcomes as weighted mean difference, all with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Meta-regression was used to investigate the associations between UDCA effects and quality of the trial, UDCA dose, trial duration, and patient's severity of primary biliary cirrhosis. We also used Bayesian meta-analytic approach to estimate the UDCA effect as sensitivity analysis.

MAIN RESULTS: Sixteen randomised clinical trials evaluating UDCA against placebo or no intervention were identified. Data from three trials have been updated. Nearly half of the trials had high risk of bias. The combined results demonstrated no significant effects favouring UDCA on mortality (OR 0.97, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.42) and mortality or liver transplantation (RR 0.92, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.21). The findings were supported by the Bayesian meta-analyses. UDCA did not improve pruritus, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, liver histology, or portal pressure. UDCA seemed to improve biochemical variables, like serum bilirubin, ascites, and jaundice, but the findings were based on few trials with sparse data. The use of UDCA is significantly associated with adverse events, mainly weight gain.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review did not demonstrate any benefit of UDCA on mortality and mortality or liver transplantation of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. The few beneficial effects could not be due to random errors or outcome reporting bias.

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