Objectives: To assess the tolerability and efficacy of high-dose (25-30 mg/kg per day) ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).
Methods: Thirty patients with PSC were enrolled in this pilot study and treated for 1 yr. Changes in the Mayo risk score at 1 yr of treatment and projected survival at 4 yr were compared with that observed in patients randomized to placebo (n = 52) or UDCA (n = 53) at a dose of 13-15 mg/kg per day.
Results: A marked improvement in serum alkaline phosphatase activity (1265+/-172 vs 693+/-110 U/L, p < 0.001), AST (161+/-037 vs 77+/-13 U/L, p = 0.001), albumin (4.0+/-0.1 vs 4.2+/-0.1 g/dl, p = 0.03), and total bilirubin (1.6+/-0.3 vs 1.3+/-0.2 mg/dl, p = 0.1) occurred at 1 yr of therapy with high-dose UDCA. Changes in the Mayo risk score after 1 yr of treatment were significantly different among the three groups (p < 0.001), and these changes would be translated into a significantly different expected survival at 4 yr (p = 0.05). This expected survival at 4 yr was significantly different between placebo and the dose of 25-30 mg/kg per day (p = 0.04), but not between placebo and the dose of 13-15 mg/kg per day (p = 0.4). High-dose UDCA was well tolerated.
Conclusions: UDCA at a dose of 25-30 mg/kg per day may be of benefit for patients with PSC, and this regimen deserves further evaluation in a long-term, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.