Fatal isoniazid-induced hepatitis. Its risk during chemoprophylaxis

West J Med. 1993 Nov;159(5):560-4.


Isoniazid chemoprophylaxis has long been known to be a highly effective means of preventing silent tuberculous infections from spreading to active disease. There has been much controversy, however, about the risk it carries for fatal hepatotoxicity. In this article I review the rate of fatal isoniazid-induced hepatitis during chemoprophylaxis that is done according to current monitoring guidelines. Information was obtained from a MEDLINE literature search and a survey of tuberculosis control officers in large metropolitan areas throughout the country. Data were included of patients who were monitored according to the American Thoracic Society's guidelines or who were treated after 1983 when the guidelines were published. The pooled results of the published studies showed no hepatotoxic deaths in 20,212 patients in whom prophylaxis was started. The unpublished data showed 2 deaths in 182,285 patients, for a combined rate of 0.001% (2 of 202,497). The death rate for those older than 35 years was estimated to be 0.002% (1 of 43,334). This rate is significantly lower than was previously estimated and should be used to reevaluate the benefit of preventive therapy for tuberculin-reactive patients older than 35. The risk of fatal isoniazid-induced hepatitis is negligible for all ages when patients are routinely monitored for liver toxicity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cause of Death
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology*
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • Humans
  • Isoniazid / administration & dosage
  • Isoniazid / adverse effects*
  • Isoniazid / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Tuberculosis / complications
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control*


  • Drug Combinations
  • Isoniazid