Rifampin is safe for treatment of pruritus due to chronic cholestasis: a meta-analysis of prospective randomized-controlled trials

Liver Int. 2006 Oct;26(8):943-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1478-3231.2006.01326.x.


Objectives: To determine the safety and efficacy of rifampin for treatment of pruritus associated with cholestasis due to chronic liver disease.

Methods: Medical literature was searched systematically using keywords as rifampicin, rifampin, rifamycin, cholestasis, pruritus, itching, and liver disease. Trials that compared the efficacy of rifampin with placebo/alternative for treatment of pruritus due to chronic cholestasis were selected for analysis. Primary outcomes were resolution of pruritus and development of side effects. Association was measured with the odds ratio (OR). Breslow-Day method was used to treat for homogeneity under null hypothesis that OR was consistent across all the trials. Corrected Mantel-Haenszel chi(2) test was used to test if OR differed systematically from value of 1.

Results: Five prospective randomized-controlled cross-over trials with 61 patients were identified. Treatment with rifampin led to complete or partial resolution of pruritus in 47 (77%) patients as compared with 12(20%) treated with placebo or alternative (OR 15.2, 95% confidence interval 5.2-45.6, P=0.001). Four (7%) patients treated with rifampin suffered side effects, which resolved after its discontinuation. There was no incidence of hepatotoxicity. Test of heterogeneity for primary end points among the trials was not significant (P=0.16).

Conclusion: This meta-analysis suggests that rifampin is safe and effective for treatment of pruritus due to chronic cholestasis. This analysis also suggests that use of rifampin for short duration is associated with a low risk of hepatotoxicity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cholestasis / complications*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Humans
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pruritus / drug therapy*
  • Pruritus / etiology
  • Rifampin / administration & dosage*
  • Rifampin / adverse effects*


  • Rifampin