Efficacy of colchicine in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis poorly responsive to ursodiol and methotrexate

Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Jan;98(1):205-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2003.07182.x.


Objective: Approximately 20-30% of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) respond fully to treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA). The rest have progressive disease and eventually develop cirrhosis and liver failure. More effective treatment is needed. Methotrexate improved biochemical tests of liver function and liver histology in patients with PBC who had failed to respond to UDCA in one report and induced sustained biochemical and histological remission in another. The role of colchicine in PBC is unclear. We describe three patients with symptomatic PBC who responded very well to the addition of colchicine after they had failed to respond to UDCA alone and in combination with methotrexate. We suggest that colchicine should be tried in PBC patients who clearly fail to respond to UDCA.

Methods: Three patients with symptomatic biopsy-proven, antimitochondrial antibody-positive PBC failed to respond to UDCA and then to the addition of methotrexate. Colchicine was eventually added to the regimen. Symptoms, biochemical tests of liver function, and percutaneous liver biopsies were done at baseline, after treatment with UDCA, UDCA plus methotrexate, and UDCA plus methotrexate plus colchicine.

Results: All three patients responded after colchicine was added to UDCA and methotrexate. Symptoms, biochemical tests of liver function, and liver histology improved in all, and blood tests normalized in two.

Conclusions: Colchicine may be effective treatment in some symptomatic patients with PBC who respond incompletely to UDCA alone or in combination with methotrexate. Colchicine may be tried in such patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / therapeutic use*
  • Colchicine / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / drug therapy*
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Failure
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Cholagogues and Choleretics
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid
  • Colchicine
  • Methotrexate