In view of promising, but uncontrolled, reports of the use of D-penicillamine in active chronic hepatitis, a randomised, prospective, controlled trial of this drug against prednisone was carried out. Of the 35 patients entered, 18 received D-penicillamine (increasing to 1-2 g daily) and 17 prednisone (15 mg daily). In all patients the disease had already been brought under biochemical control with corticosteroids. During the first year of the trial, the treatment of nine patients in the D-penicillamine group was discontinued (two because of lack of disease control and seven because of side-effects) compared with six patients in the prednisone group (four because of lack of disease control, one because of side-effects, and one because of the development of carcinomatosis. Detailed statistical analysis of the liver function tests in the patients remaining in the trial at the end of the year showed no significant differences. D-penicillamine is associated with a higher frequency of side-effects than is prednisone. However, in some patients it is as satisfactory as prednisone in keeping the disease under control.
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