Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Background: The clinical course of chronic hepatitis B is variable. Patients with hepatic decompensation, bridging necrosis or an alpha-fetoprotein level greater than 100 ng/mL during an exacerbation of hepatitis have a high risk of developing cirrhosis. This study was conducted to evaluate the effect of colchicine in the prevention of cirrhosis in such patients. Methods: Patients with risk factor(s) were randomized to receive either colchicine 5 mg/week or no specific treatment, the end point being development of cirrhosis. Results: After a follow up period of 4 years, the treatment group had a marked reduction in exacerbations of acute hepatitis (32% vs. 63%/patient/year, P〈0.005). Seven out of 38 patients in the treatment group and 10 out of 27 patients in the control group developed cirrhosis. The calculated cumulative incidence of cirrhosis by the end of first, second, third and fourth years in the treatment group was 8.7, 18.6, 32 and 32%, respectively. The corresponding figures in the control group were 30, 35.5, 46.3 and 73.2%, respectively, with a P-value of 0.057. Conclusions: The results suggest that colchicine may prevent cirrhosis in chronic hepatitis B patients with risk factor(s), possibly by suppressing exacerbations of hepatitis through an anti-inflammatory effect.
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