Current and novel immunosuppressive therapy for autoimmune hepatitis

Hepatology. 2002 Jan;35(1):7-13. doi: 10.1053/jhep.2002.30991.


Corticosteroids alone or in conjunction with azathioprine is the treatment of choice in patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) and results in remission induction in over 80% of patients. Sustained response to therapy may result in substantial regression of fibrosis even in advanced cases. The outcome of rapid withdrawal of immunosuppression is disease relapse in many patients. Consequently, the use of 2 mg/kg/d of azathioprine as a sole agent to maintain remission has been widely accepted in clinical practice. Persistent severe laboratory abnormalities or histologic abnormalities such as bridging necrosis or multilobular necrosis are absolute indications for treatment based on controlled clinical trials, but debate exists as to whether all patients with AIH need treatment. Examination of liver tissue remains the best method of evaluating both treatment response and need for treatment in patients who have little biochemical activity. Alternative strategies in patients who have failed to achieve remission on "standard therapy" of corticosteroids with or without azathioprine or patients with drug toxicity include the use of cyclosporine, tacrolimus, or mycophenolate mofetil. Liver transplantation is the treatment of choice in managing decompensated disease. In this review we examine current management strategies of AIH, and evaluate available data pertaining to the use of novel immunosuppressive agents in this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Treatment Failure


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Azathioprine