The study of chronic liver disease has been hampered by insufficient information relative to the pathogenesis of the many forms of hepatitis. Consequently, well-designed treatment strategies are frequently lacking. Wilson’s disease is characterised by excessive copper accumulation in the liver and other organs. While d-penicillamine is clearly effective, many patients may not tolerate its many adverse effects. Trientine, oral zinc and unithiol have all shown promise as therapeutic alternatives. Autoimmune chronic active hepatitis responds well to prednisone and azathioprine. Cyclosporin has also produced clinical improvement in several case reports but no comparison has yet been made with the current standard therapy. Recombinant interferon-α (IFNα) has demonstrated the ability to inhibit hepatitis B viral replication, and the combination of oral corticosteroids followed by IFNα is more effective than either agent alone in eliminating viral replication in patients with chronic active hepatitis B. Currently, primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) has no standard medical management, but corticosteroids and methotrexate may each have a future role in its treatment. Drug treatment for primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) has been disappointing, and early reports of success with d-penicillamine were not confirmed in large well-controlled trials. While some reports of improvement with several agents have been described, larger studies are still needed. Alcoholic liver disease continues to be associated with significant morbidity and mortality and numerous investigators have researched several different medical avenues of treatment. Success reported with androgens and the antithyroid agent propylthiouracil in alcoholic liver disease will need confirmation by other research before these agents can be recommended for routine use. Finally, colchicine may prove to be effective in slowing the rate of fibrosis in cirrhosis, but this has yet to be conclusively proven.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)