Background: Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has been shown to improve serum levels of liver enzymes and bilirubin in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). However, it is still uncertain whether UDCA treatment also improves symptoms, liver histology, and survival without liver transplantation.
Methods: We randomized 116 patients with PBC to receive 0.5 g UDCA (n = 60) or placebo (n = 56) daily for 2 years. During the next 2 years, 80% of the UDCA-treated patients and 65% of the placebo-treated patients continued to take UDCA.
Results: UDCA improved serum enzyme values but not survival, symptoms, serum bilirubin levels, or liver histology. There was no significant difference in response between initially symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.
Conclusions: UDCA in a dosage of 7.7 mg/kg body weight is of little benefit in PBC. This does not exclude the possibility that larger doses have beneficial effects.