Background/aims: Severe alcoholic hepatitis is associated with high morbidity and short-term mortality. Corticosteroids are the only widely used therapy but established contraindications to treatment or the risk of serious side-effects limit their use. The perceived need for alternative treatments together with the theoretical benefits of anti-oxidant therapy triggered the design of a randomised clinical trial comparing these treatment modalities.
Methods: One hundred and one patients were randomized into a clinical trial of corticosteroids or a novel antioxidant cocktail with a primary endpoint of 30-day mortality.
Results: At 30 days there were 16 deaths (30%) in the corticosteroid treated group compared with 22 deaths (46%) in the antioxidant treated group (P=0.05). The odds of dying by 30 days were 2.4 greater for patients on antioxidants (95% confidence interval 1.0-5.6). A diagnosis of sepsis was made more frequently in the AO group (P=0.05), although microbiologically proven episodes of infection occurred more often in the CS group (P<0.01). The survival advantage for corticosteroid treated patients was lost at 1 year of follow-up (P=0.43).
Conclusions: This study has shown that corticosteroids in the form of prednisolone 30 mg daily are superior to a broad antioxidant cocktail in the treatment of severe alcoholic hepatitis.