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Hepatitis and liver dysfunction with rifampicin therapy for pruritus in primary biliary cirrhosis
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  1. M I Prince,
  2. A D Burt,
  3. D E J Jones
  1. Centre for Liver Research, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr M Prince, Centre for Liver Research, 4th Floor William Leech Building, Newcastle University Medical School, Framlington Place, Newcastle NE2 4HH, UK;
    Martin.prince{at}ncl.ac.uk

Abstract

There is evidence to suggest that rifampicin is an effective second line therapy for controlling pruritus in patients with chronic cholestatic liver disease. It is most widely used as an antipruritic agent in the autoimmune cholestatic liver disease, primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Rifampicin has been reported as causing hepatitis in patients being treated for tuberculosis. Most reports of this have been confounded however by the concurrent use of other hepatotoxic antitubercular therapy. Here we report a single centre experience of the use of rifampicin in PBC, and describe three cases of significant hepatitis associated with rifampicin therapy. Two of these patients had significant impairment of liver synthetic function (necessitating liver transplantation in one case). These are the first reports of impaired hepatic synthetic function due to rifampicin monotherapy. Rifampicin caused significant hepatitis in 7.3% (95% confidence interval 2.5–19.4%) of patients treated for cholestatic liver disease in our centre.

  • rifampicin
  • pruritus
  • primary biliary cirrhosis
  • hepatitis
  • liver dysfunction
  • PBC, primary biliary cirrhosis
  • UDCA, ursodeoxycholic acid
  • LFTs, liver function tests
  • ALT, alanine transaminase
  • ALP, alkaline phosphatase

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