Treatment of NASH with ursodeoxycholic acid: pro

Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2012 Sep:36 Suppl 1:S41-5. doi: 10.1016/S2210-7401(12)70020-7.


Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is one of hepatologists'oldest friends, always ready to help, throughout the years, in numerous and various liver and biliary tract diseases. On paper, it has had an impeccable track record of cytoprotection in vitro and in vivo due to its pleiotropic effects on many pathways leading to cell injury. Most of its hepatoprotective effects demonstrated under experimental conditions proved able to counteract pathogenic mechanisms involved in the transition from steatosis to steatohepatitis, and early clinical studies suggested a potentially beneficial effect in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) as well. Yet, only scant data on the efficacy of UDCA specifically in experimental models of steatosis/NASH are available, and the few available randomized controlled clinical studies have substantial methodological issues and are discussed in this review. Thus, at this point, there is not enough evidence to either confirm or reject the efficacy of UDCA in NASH, although many NASH patients clearly experience biochemical improvements with prolonged UDCA treatment. Also, a few new UDCA derivatives have shown promising activity in preclinical models and may be worth testing in clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / pharmacology
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics / therapeutic use*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Fatty Liver / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / pharmacology
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cholagogues and Choleretics
  • Ursodeoxycholic Acid