Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Background : It is uncertain whether ursodeoxycholic acid therapy slows down the progression of primary biliary cirrhosis, according to two meta-analyses. However, the randomized trials evaluated had only a median of 24 months of follow-up.Aim : To evaluate long-term ursodeoxycholic acid therapy in primary biliary cirrhosis.Methods : We evaluated 209 consecutive primary biliary cirrhosis patients, 69 compliant with ursodeoxycholic acid and 140 untreated [mean follow-up 5.79 (s.d. = 4.73) and 4.87 (s.d. = 5.21) years, respectively] with onset of all complications documented. Comparison was made following adjustment for baseline differences according to Cox modelling, Mayo and Royal Free prognostic models.Results : Bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase concentrations improved with ursodeoxycholic acid (at 36 months, P = 0.007 and 0.018, respectively). Unadjusted Kaplan–Meier analysis showed benefit (P = 0.028), as 44 (31%) untreated and 15 (22%) ursodeoxycholic acid patients died or had liver transplantation. However, there was no difference when adjusted by Cox modelling (P = 0.267), Mayo (P = 0.698) and Royal Free models (P = 0.559). New pruritus or fatigue or other complications were not different, either before or after adjustment for baseline characteristics.Conclusions : Long-term ursodeoxycholic acid therapy did not alter disease progression in primary biliary cirrhosis patients despite a significant improvement in serum bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase consistent with, and similar to, those seen in ursodeoxycholic acid cohorts in randomized trials.
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