The primary aim of this study was to compare the effects of pentoxifylline (PTX) versus placebo on the histological features of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In all, 55 adults with biopsy-confirmed NASH were randomized to receive PTX at a dose of 400 mg three times a day (n = 26) or placebo (n = 29) over 1 year. The primary efficacy endpoint was defined as improvement in histological features of NASH through reduction in steatosis, lobular inflammation, and/or hepatocellular ballooning as reflected by a decrease of ≥ 2 points in the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) activity score (NAS). After 1 year, intention-to-treat analysis showed a decrease of ≥ 2 points in the NAS in 38.5% of patients on PTX versus 13.8% of those on placebo (P = 0.036). Per protocol analysis, a decrease of ≥ 2 points in the NAS from baseline was observed in 50% of the patients on PTX versus 15.4% of those on placebo (P = 0.01). The mean change in NAS score from baseline was -1.6 in the PTX group, versus -0.1 in the placebo group (P < 0.001). PTX significantly improved steatosis (mean change in score -0.9 versus -0.04 with placebo, P < 0.001) and lobular inflammation (median change -1 versus 0 with placebo, P = 0.02). No significant effects in hepatocellular ballooning were observed. PTX also improved liver fibrosis (mean change in fibrosis score was -0.2 among those on PTX versus +0.4 among those on placebo, P = 0.038). Although not statistically significant (P = 0.17), improvement in fibrosis was observed in a greater proportion (35%) of patients in the PTX group compared to placebo (15%). Adverse effects were similar in both groups.
Conclusion: PTX improved histological features of NASH compared to placebo. PTX was well tolerated in patients with NASH.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00590161.
Copyright © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.