Pathogenesis and treatment of pruritus in cholestasis

Drugs. 2008;68(15):2163-82. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200868150-00006.


Pruritus is an enigmatic, seriously disabling symptom accompanying cholestatic liver diseases and a broad range of other disorders. Most recently, novel itch-specific neuronal pathways, itch mediators and their relevant receptors have been identified. In addition, new antipruritic therapeutic strategies have been developed and/or are under evaluation. This review highlights recent experimental and clinical findings focusing on the pathogenesis and actual treatment of pruritus in cholestatic liver disease. Evidence-based therapeutic recommendations, including the use of anion exchange resins cholestyramine, colestipol and colesevelam, the microsomal enzyme inducer rifampicin, the opioid receptor antagonists naltrexone and naloxone, and the serotonin reuptake inhibitor sertraline, are provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipruritics / therapeutic use*
  • Cholestasis / complications*
  • Cholestasis / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / drug effects
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pruritus / drug therapy*
  • Pruritus / etiology*
  • Pruritus / pathology
  • Pruritus / physiopathology


  • Antipruritics