Background: Ursodeoxycholic acid has been shown to be a useful agent in the clinical management of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis and autoimmune chronic active hepatitis. Its efficacy is presumed to be based upon its ability to act as a detergent and to incite a choleresis. Recent additional data suggest it also reduces HLA antigen expression on liver and biliary epithelial cells and impairs T cell reactivity.
Methods: A randomized controlled study of 59 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis was performed over a 24 months period with 3 groups being studied. Group I consisted of 20 patients who were given ursodeoxycholic acid 300 mg orally twice a day; group II consisted of 19 patients who were given colchicine 0.6 mg orally BID; and group III was an untreated medical control group. All three groups were seen at regular 3-month intervals and had quarterly, annual and terminal studies performed to assess their disease status.
Results: No difference between groups was evident after two full years of therapy when parameters of liver injury, liver function, liver size and hepatic copper content were compared between groups. Similarly, no difference in ERCP findings was evident between groups either at entry or after two years of therapy.
Conclusions: These data suggest that ursodeoxycholic acid is no better than colchicine or simple medical follow-up. Thus, neither ursodeoxycholic acid or colchicine can be considered to be effective therapies for primary sclerosing cholangitis.