Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) leads to biochemical and clinical improvement in many patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC); although, the response is variable. This study compared UDCA treated patients with complete normalisation of biochemical functions to those without such improvement. Of the 65 patients receiving UDCA, 12 (19%) showed normalisation of liver biochemical functions at two years. The remaining 53 patients showed a less complete response. Mean (SD) alkaline phosphatase and total serum bilirubin values were significantly lower at entry in the patients whose liver biochemistry tests normalised (912 (732) U/l v 1417 (1021) U/l, p = 0.003, and 0.7 (12.1 (5.2) mumol/l v 38.9 (48.5) mumol/l, p = 0.0002, respectively), and percentage of UDCA in biliary bile acid was higher (56.3 (9.5)% v 38.3 (21.1)%, p = 0.03). Patients with biochemically and histologically less severe disease, and greater enrichment of biliary bile with UDCA, are more likely to respond favourably to the drug. The main objective of continued study will be to find out if normal liver biochemical functions can retard disease progression. The association of greater UDCA enrichment with complete biochemical responses suggests that higher doses of UDCA should be evaluated.
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