OBJECTIVE: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) have not demonstrated improvement in survival during the placebo-controlled phases of these trials. Analyses purporting to demonstrate a survival advantage of UDCA are largely dependent on data obtained after the placebo phases were terminated, and placebo-treated patients were offered open-label UDCA. After completion of our 2-yr placebo-controlled trial of UDCA in which we observed no survival benefit for UDCA, we provided the patients with open-label UDCA to see if delay in providing UDCA for 2 yr had any effect on subsequent liver transplantation or death without liver transplantation. METHODS: In our previously reported 2-yr placebo-controlled trial, 151 patients with PBC were randomized to receive either UDCA (n = 77) or placebo (n = 74). The number of patients who progressed to liver transplantation or death without transplantation were similar in both the groups, 12 (16%) in the UDCA-treated and 11 (15%) in placebo-treated patients. All the patients were then offered open-label UDCA, with 61 original UDCA and 56 original placebo-treated patients now taking UDCA in an extended open-label phase of the trial. RESULTS: No significant differences were observed in the number of patients who underwent liver transplantation or died without liver transplantation in the open-label phase of the trial. Moreover, no difference in the time to these endpoints was seen over the period of observation of as long as 6 yr from the time of initial randomization. CONCLUSIONS: Results of open-label extensions of previous conducted placebo-controlled trials of UDCA in PBC leave uncertain whether UDCA impacts significantly on liver transplantation and death without liver transplantation in patients with PBC.
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