Chenodeoxycholate: the bile acid. The drug. a review

Am J Med Sci. 1994 Jan;307(1):54-63. doi: 10.1097/00000441-199401000-00011.


Chenodeoxycholate (3 alpha, 7 alpha-dihydroxy-5 beta-cholanic acid) is a primary bile acid directly synthesized from cholesterol. It is an amphipathic molecule, possessing both a hydrophobic side and a polar hydrophilic side, giving it the ability to solubilize lipids in a water environment. Bile acids are necessary for the absorption of fats and fat soluble vitamins. Chenodeoxycholate inhibits the rate-limiting step of cholesterol synthesis, the formation of hydroxymethyl-glutaryl-coenzyme A. It was first reported to be useful in the dissolution of cholesterol gallstones in 1972. Today, chenodeoxycholate has other medicinal uses and is used for the management of cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis, hypertriglyceremia, congenital liver diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and constipation. This article details some finer points of chenodeoxycholate biochemistry and physiology and discusses in some detail the current and past clinical uses of chenodeoxycholate. This is not an exhaustive discussion on gallstone dissolution therapies, but an overview of some of the lesser-known uses for this drug.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid / adverse effects
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid / physiology
  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Embolism, Cholesterol / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Porphyria, Hepatoerythropoietic / drug therapy
  • Xanthomatosis / drug therapy


  • Chenodeoxycholic Acid