Ursodiol in the long-term treatment of chronic hepatitis: a double-blind multicenter clinical trial

Stefano Bellentani, Mauro Podda, Claudio Tiribelli, Francesco Callea, Marino Marazzi, Marino Sodde, Ruggero Merlini, Pier Maria Batezzati, Andrea Crosignani, Massimo Zuin, Federico Manenti

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Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA or ursodiol) administration has been associated with a reduction of serum liver enzymes in patients with chronic liver disease and with improvement of liver histology in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. To establish the potential therapeutic efficacy of ursodiol in chronic hepatitis, serum biochemistry and liver histology were investigated in a multicenter, double-blind placebo controlled clinical trial. Sixty patients with non-cholestatic chronic active (mild or severe) hepatitis, mainly of viral (virus C) etiology and almost completely asymptomatic, were enrolled in 3 centers: 29 were assigned to receive placebo and 31 UDCA (600 mg/day) for 1 year. Demographic, biochemical, virological and histological features were balanced between the 2 groups at the entrance into the study. Fifty-six patients (34 males, 22 females; 19 with cirrhosis; 5 HBsAg-positive; 45 anti-HCV positive) were included in the final analysis. Compliance was checked by measuring UDCA levels at the 3 follow-up visits (3, 6 and 12 months). Liver biopsy was performed at the beginning and at the end of treatment and was evaluated blindly by our pathologist (F.C.). Alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and gammaglutamyltransferase (GGT) levels were significantly reduced by 25% from baseline values during treatment with ursodiol but not with placebo. The efficacy of UDCA in lowering serum AST and ALT was more pronounced in the presence of cirrhosis. The semiquantitative liver histological score used remained substantially unchanged after treatment and no differences between placebo and UDCA were found for portal or periportal necrosis or inflammation, intralobular degeneration, cholestasis or fibrosis. We conclude that UDCA administration for 1 year in patients with post-viral, non-cholestatic chronic active hepatitis might have an ancillary role in reducing cellular injury, but does not influence histological activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-464
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • Chronic hepatitis
  • Clinical trial
  • Ursodeoxycholic acid
  • Ursodiol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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