The biliary bile acid and bile lipid responses to six weeks treatment with approximately 5, 10, and 15 mg/kg/day of ursocholic acid (UCA) were studied in 11 gall stone patients. Maximum enrichment of bile with UCA (24 (SE) 4.9%) occurred with 15 mg UCA/kg/day. The maximum reduction in biliary cholesterol saturation was seen with the 10 mg/kg/day dose when the moles % cholesterol fell from 14 (2.4)% before treatment to 5.6 (0.83)% (p less than 0.02) and the saturation index fell from 1.4 (0.23) to 0.77 (0.13) (p less than 0.05). Clinical studies of the safety and efficacy of UCA in dissolving gall stones were carried out in 13 patients treated for up to two years with a dose of approximately 10 mg/kg/day. Diarrhoea caused withdrawal of treatment in three patients. There were no significant changes in liver function or haematology tests but fasting serum cholesterol tended to rise during treatment. Of nine patients treated for greater than 6 months, only one showed complete gall stone dissolution. As UCA may cause diarrhoea and hypercholesterolaemia, has only a modest effect on biliary cholesterol saturation and low gall stone dissolution efficacy, it is unlikely to replace existing forms of gall stone dissolution therapy.
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