There is insufficient evidence to support or refute D-penicillamine for patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis

D-penicillamine has been considered for patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis due to its copper reducing and immunomodulatory potential. The only identified randomised clinical trial did not demonstrate any beneficial effect of D-penicillamine on the course, complications, and survival of patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. In addition, its use was associated with a number of adverse events. Therefore, we cannot recommend the use of D-penicillamine outside randomised trials.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is not sufficient evidence to support or refute the use of D-penicillamine for patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. We do not recommend the use of D-penicillamine for patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis outside randomised trials.

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Background: 

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a cholestatic disease. D-penicillamine is suggested as a treatment option due to its copper reducing and immunomodulatory potential.

Objectives: 

To evaluate the beneficial and harmful effects of D-penicillamine for patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Search strategy: 

Eligible trials were identified through searches of The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register (August 2005), The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials in The Cochrane Library (Issue 3, 2005), MEDLINE (1950 to August 2005), EMBASE (1980 to August 2005), Science Citation Index EXPANDED (1945 to August 2005), and reference lists of relevant articles. Authors of trials and pharmaceutical companies known to produce D-penicillamine were also contacted.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised clinical trials comparing D-penicillamine in any dose, duration, and route of administration versus placebo, no intervention, or other intervention(s). Trials were included irrespective of publication status, year of publication, language, or blinding.

Data collection and analysis: 

Both authors selected the trials, extracted data, and evaluated the methodological quality of the trials with respect to the generation of allocation sequence, allocation concealment, blinding, and follow-up. The results were reported by intention-to-treat analysis. The outcomes were presented as relative risk (RR) or weighted mean difference (WMD), both with 95% confidence intervals (CI).

Main results: 

One randomised trial was identified and included in the review. It was of low methodological quality. The trial compared D-penicillamine versus placebo in 70 patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Compared with placebo, D-penicillamine therapy had no significant effect on mortality (RR 1.14, 95% CI 0.49 to 2.64), liver transplantation (RR 1.11, 95% CI 0.39 to 3.17), hepatic histologic progression (RR 1.17, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.74), or cholangiographic deterioration (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.43 to 1.79). D-penicillamine led to a significant improvement in the serum aspartate aminotransferase (WMD -23.00 U/L; 95% CI -30.66 to -15.34), but not in serum bilirubin level (WMD 0.40 mg/L; 95% CI -0.19 to 0.99) and serum alkaline phosphatases activity (WMD 44.00 U/L; 95% CI -37.89 to 125.89). There were significantly more adverse events in patients receiving D-penicillamine (P = 0.013).

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