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Mycophenolate for the treatment of autoimmune hepatitis: prospective assessment of its efficacy and safety for induction and maintenance of remission in a large cohort of treatment-naïve patients.

Journal of Hepatology 2011 September
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Standard therapy for autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is corticosteroids with or without azathioprine. However, 20% of patients do not respond or are intolerant to conventional treatment. Therefore, we evaluated prospectively the efficacy and safety of mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) in inducing and/or maintaining remission in treatment-naïve AIH patients.

METHODS: Fifty-nine treatment-naïve patients with well defined AIH were treated with prednisolone plus 1.5-2g/d of MMF. Patients were candidates for MMF withdrawal after at least 4 years. Treatment outcomes were defined according to the International Autoimmune Hepatitis Group report.

RESULTS: Treatment duration with MMF was 26months (range 3-92). Eighty-eight percent (52/59) of patients responded initially clinically and biochemically (normalization of transaminases and γ-globulins) most of them within 3months. The remaining 7 patients (12%) had partial response. In total, 59.3% (35/59) of patients had complete response (CR) with 37% (22/59) of them having achieved CR off prednisolone, while 28.8% (17/59) had initial CR with relapses. No patient was non-responder. Prednisolone withdrew in 57.6% (34/59) of patients in 8months. The only independent predictor of treatment outcome, was γ-GT (baseline γ-GT, p=0.008 and γ-GT on month 24, p<0.05). Severe side effects leading to MMF discontinuation occurred in only 3.4% (2/59) of patients. Six patients (2 according to protocol and 4 for personal reasons), stopped treatment with MMF, but 3 relapsed.

CONCLUSIONS: MMF seems safe and effective as first-line therapy in inducing and maintaining remission in treatment-naive patients with AIH, having a significant and rapid steroid sparing effect as attested by the fact that so far, 37% (22/59) of AIH patients achieved CR off prednisolone.

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