Triethylene tetramine dihydrochloride toxicity in primary biliary cirrhosis

Gastroenterology. 1980 Jun;78(6):1442-5.


Triethylene tetramine dihydrochloride (trien) is a copper chelating agent used as the alternative drug of choice in the treatment of Wilson's disease. Because of its apparent safety, we have used the drug in 4 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis in whom penicillamine had to be withdrawn because of serious side effects. Trien is an effective cupruretic drug in primary biliary cirrhosis, but its use is limited by the occurrence of side effects that occurred in all 4 patients. Three patients developed gastrointestinal side effects, and one of these patients developed a skin rash. The 4th patient developed acute rhabdomyolysis within 48 hr of receiving the first dose of the drug. One patient tolerated therapy for 20 wk, and, although her liver copper concentration did not show a marked fall, aspartate transaminase levels fell, and her IgM concentration fell to normal. Trien is an unsuitable copper chelating drug in primary biliary cirrhosis, although it remains the alternative drug of choice in Wilson's disease.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia / chemically induced*
  • Chelating Agents / adverse effects*
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology*
  • Ethylenediamines / adverse effects*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Gastritis / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / drug therapy*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Biliary / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscular Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Trientine / adverse effects*


  • Chelating Agents
  • Ethylenediamines
  • Copper
  • Trientine