Background: In patients with pruritus of cholestasis, response to conventional drug treatment may be unsatisfactory. Activation of 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors on dermal sensory nerve-endings plays a role in the perception of pruritus. The 5-hydroxytryptamine(3) receptor antagonist, ondansetron, has been used in the treatment of pruritus of cholestasis, but there are few controlled data.
Aim: To determine whether ondansetron is effective in treating the pruritus of cholestasis.
Methods: A total of 19 patients with resistant pruritus were randomized, double blind, to receive either ondansetron 8 mg or placebo as a single intravenous bolus, followed by oral ondansetron 8 mg or placebo twice daily for 5 days. Patients' perception of pruritus was recorded hourly using a visual analogue scale, and scratching activity measured by means of a piezo-electric crystal attached to the fingernail.
Results: Mean pruritus score using visual analogue scale and scratching activity were reduced on the first treatment day compared with baseline in both the ondansetron and placebo groups (P < 0.05), but there were no significant differences in mean pruritus perception or scratching activity between the two groups.
Conclusion: Ondansetron was of no benefit in this group of pruritic patients during short-term treatment.