Pentoxifylline for the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: a meta-analysis of randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled studies

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2014 Jun;26(6):646-53. doi: 10.1097/MEG.0000000000000068.


Aims: Pentoxifylline has been used to treat nonalcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLDs) due to its anti-tumor necrosis factor-α effects. We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials to investigate the effect of pentoxifylline on the biochemical and histological parameters of NAFLD patients.

Materials and methods: A comprehensive literature search was conducted in the database including PubMed, Embase, ISI web of knowledge, the Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar to identify randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials about the effects of pentoxifylline on NAFLD. The pooled weighted mean difference (WMD) with 95% confidence interval (CI) was calculated to compare the effects of pentoxifylline and placebo.

Results: Five well-designed studies were retrieved. Pooled results showed that pentoxifylline significantly reduced the serum alanine transaminase activity (WMD=-27.97; 95% CI: -42.59, -13.34) and aspartate transaminase activity (WMD=-13.97; 95% CI: -23.31, -4.63) in NAFLD patients compared with placebo. In addition, pentoxifylline significantly improved steatosis (WMD=-0.68; 95% CI: -1.01, -0.34), lobular inflammation (WMD=-0.49; 95% CI: -0.86, -0.12), and fibrosis (WMD=-0.60; 95% CI: -0.99, -0.21). Furthermore, pentoxifylline also led to significant reduction in BMI (WMD=-0.51; 95% CI: -0.96, -0.06) and fasting glucose (WMD=-8.97; 95% CI: -14.52, -3.42), but did not significantly affect the serum tumor necrosis factor α and adiponectin levels when compared with placebo.

Conclusion: Pentoxifylline could reduce the aminotransferase activities and improve the histological parameters in NAFLD patients. Large well-designed, randomized, placebo-controlled studies are needed to confirm these results.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Humans
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Pentoxifylline / adverse effects
  • Pentoxifylline / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Transaminases / blood
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Transaminases
  • Pentoxifylline