Clinical course and outcomes of drug-induced liver injury: nimesulide as the first implicated medication

A Licata, V Calvaruso, M Cappello, A Craxì, P L Almasio
Digestive and Liver Disease 2010, 42 (2): 143-8

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is the most common cause of death from acute liver failure, and accounts for approximately 13% of cases of acute liver failure in the United States. The clinical presentation of DILI covers a wide spectrum, from asymptomatic liver test abnormalities to symptomatic acute liver disease, prolonged jaundice and disability, or overt acute or subacute liver failure. The aim of our study was to evaluate the number of DILI cases admitted to our Unit and to identify the drugs responsible. Thus, we reviewed all clinical records of patients with DILI admitted to our Unit from 1996 to 2006.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: A database was constructed, reporting demographic, clinical features at onset, laboratory results, suspected drugs and follow-up. Liver damage was defined as hepatocellular, cholestatic or mixed, according to clinical and laboratory data.

RESULTS: Forty-six patients were admitted with a diagnosis of DILI. Presentation was jaundice in 22 patients and hepatic failure in 3 (all attributed to nimesulide). Liver damage was of a cytolytic pattern in 19 cases (41%), cholestatic in 15 (33%) and mixed in 12 (26%). Jaundice was found to be higher in nimesulide-induced liver damage compared to other drugs (p=0.007). Three out of 14 patients with nimesulide-induced DILI developed encephalopathy and/or ascites. Time of recovery in the nimesulide group was significantly lower than DILI from other drugs (p<0.001).

CONCLUSION: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, psychotropic drugs and antimicrobials are the most common causes of DILI. Nimesulide-induced DILI is usually reversible upon discontinuation of the drug, but occasionally progresses to liver failure.

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