Association of bezafibrate with transplant-free survival in patients with primary biliary cholangitis

J Hepatol. 2021 Sep;75(3):565-571. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2021.04.010. Epub 2021 Apr 18.


Background & aims: A beneficial effect of bezafibrate (BZF) on symptoms and biochemical features of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) has been reported in patients with an incomplete response to ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), but long-term effects on survival remain unknown. In Japan, BZF has been used as a de facto second-line therapy for PBC since 2000. Herein, we compared the survival rates between patients treated with and those without BZF in a large nationwide Japanese PBC cohort.

Methods: All consecutively registered patients of this cohort who started UDCA therapy from 2000 onwards and had a follow-up ≥1 year were included. Association between BZF exposure and mortality or need for liver transplantation (LT) was assessed using time-dependent, multivariable-and propensity score-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models. Clinical benefit was quantified using the number needed to treat (NNT).

Results: Of 3,908 eligible patients, 3,162 (81%) received UDCA only and 746 (19%) UDCA and BZF over 17,360 and 3,932 patient-years, respectively. During follow-up, 183 deaths (89 liver-related) and 21 LT were registered. Exposure to combination therapy was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause and liver-related mortality or need for LT (adjusted hazard ratios: 0.3253, 95% CI 0.1936-0.5466 and 0.2748, 95% CI 0.1336-0.5655, respectively; p <0.001 for both). This association was consistent across various risk groups at baseline. The NNTs with combination therapy to prevent 1 additional death or LT over 5, 10, and 15 years were 29 (95% CI 22-46), 14 (10-22), and 8 (6-15), respectively.

Conclusions: In a large retrospective cohort study of treatment effects in patients with PBC, the addition of BZF to UDCA was associated with improved prognosis.

Lay summary: The long-term efficacy of bezafibrate (BZF) on liver transplantation (LT) - free survival in patients with PBC and an incomplete response to ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) remains to be determined. In this Japanese nationwide retrospective cohort study, the use of UDCA-BZF combination therapy, compared to UDCA alone, was associated with a lower risk of all-cause and liver-related mortality or need for LT. These results indicate that BZF is so far the only drug in PBC to have demonstrated efficacy in improving symptoms, biochemical markers, and long-term outcomes.

Keywords: Cohort; Fibrate; PBC; Transplantation; UDCA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bezafibrate / pharmacology*
  • Bezafibrate / standards
  • Bezafibrate / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / epidemiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Bezafibrate