Bezafibrate for primary biliary cirrhosis

Primary biliary cirrhosis is a chronic disease of the liver that is characterised by progressive inflammation and destruction of the liver tissue, eventually progressing to liver cirrhosis and the need for liver transplantation. Primary biliary cirrhosis primarily affects middle-aged women. Bezafibrate is a hypolipidaemic agent used in treatment of hypertriglyceridaemia. There are studies suggesting that bezafibrate, alone or in combination with ursodeoxycholic acid, is effective in treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis. Mechanisms through which bezafibrate improves lipid serum concentration balance and prevents biliary cell damage still need to be fully understood. This review evaluates all data on the benefits and harms of bezafibrate for patients with primary biliary cirrhosis in randomised clinical trials. The findings of this review are based on six randomised clinical trials with 151 Japanese patients. Bezafibrate was compared with no intervention in four trials (with co-intervention of ursodeoxycholic acid in both the bezafibrate and control groups) and with ursodeoxycholic acid in two trials. The primary findings of the review are that bezafibrate has no statistically significant effects on mortality, liver-related morbidity, adverse events, and quality of life of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. A possible positive intervention effect of bezafibrate versus no intervention on liver biochemistry measures can be real but could also be due to systematic errors or random errors. The benefits and harms of bezafibrate for patients with primary biliary cirrhosis need further assessment in randomised clinical trials comparing bezafibrate with placebo. Such trials ought to be conducted with impeccable methodology to reduce the risks of random errors and sufficiently large patient groups to reduce the risks of random errors.

Authors' conclusions: 

This systematic review did not demonstrate any effect of bezafibrate versus no intervention on mortality, liver-related morbidity, adverse events, and pruritus in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. Furthermore, we found no significant effects of bezafibrate on mortality, liver-related morbidity, or adverse events when compared with ursodeoxycholic acid, None of the trials assessed quality of life or fatigue. The data seem to indicate a possible positive intervention effect of bezafibrate on some liver biochemistry measures compared with the control group, but the observed effects could be due to systematic errors or random errors. We need more randomised clinical trials on the effects of bezafibrate on primary biliary cirrhosis with low risks of systematic errors and random errors.

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Background: 

Treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis is complicated. There are studies suggesting that bezafibrate, alone or in combination with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), is effective in the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis, but no systematic review has summarised the evidence yet.

Objectives: 

To assess the beneficial and harmful effects of bezafibrate in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) in The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index Expanded, LILACS, Clinicaltrials.gov, the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, and full text searches were conducted until November 2011. The searches in Chinese Bio-medical Literature Database, China Network Knowledge Information, Chinese Science Journal Database, Chinese Medical Citation Index, Wanfang Database, and full text searches were conducted until January 2011. Manufacturers and authors were contacted.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised clinical trials comparing bezafibrate at any dose or regimen in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis with placebo or no intervention, or with another drug. Any concomitant interventions were allowed if received equally by all treatment groups in a trial.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors extracted data. RevMan Analysis was used for statistical analysis of dichotomous data with risk ratio (RR) or risk difference (RD), and of continuous data with mean difference (MD), both with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Methodological domains were used to assess risk of systematic errors (bias). Trial sequential analysis was used to control for random errors (play of chance).

Main results: 

Six trials with 151 Japanese patients were included. All trials had high risk of bias. Four trials compared bezafibrate plus UDCA with no intervention plus UDCA (referenced as bezafibrate versus no intervention in the remaining text), and two trials compared bezafibrate with UDCA. No patient died and no patient developed liver-related complications in any of the included trials. Bezafibrate was without significant effects on the occurrence of adverse events compared with no intervention (5/32 (16%) versus 0/28 (0%)) (RR 5.40, 95% CI 0.69 to 42.32; 3 trials with 60 patients; I² = 0%) or with UDCA (2/32 (6%) versus 0/37 (0%)) (RR 6.19, 95% CI 0.31 to 122.05; 2 trials with 69 patients; I² = 0%). Bezafibrate significantly decreased the activity of serum alkaline phosphatases compared with no intervention (MD -186.04 U/L, 95% CI -249.03 to -123.04; 4 trials with 79 patients; I² = 34%) and when compared with UDCA (MD -162.90 U/L, 95% CI -199.68 to -126.12; 2 trials with 48 patients; I² = 0%). These results were supported by trial sequential analyses. Bezafibrate compared with no intervention significantly decreased plasma immunoglobulin M (MD -164.00 mg/dl, 95% CI -259.47 to -68.53; 3 trials with 50 patients; I² = 46%) and serum bilirubin concentration (MD -0.19 mg/dl, 95% CI -0.38 to -0.00; 2 trials with 34 patients; I² = 0%). However, the latter two results were not supported by trial sequential analyses. Bezafibrate compared with no intervention had no significant effect on the activity of serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (MD -1.22 U/L, 95% CI -11.97 to 9.52; 4 trials with 79 patients; I² = 42%) and serum alanine aminotransferase (MD -5.61 U/L, 95% CI -24.50 to 13.27; 2 trials with 35 patients; I² = 34%). Bezafibrate compared with UDCA had no significant effect on the activity of serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (MD 38.44 U/L, 95% CI -180.67 to 257.55; 2 trials with 49 patients; I² = 89%), serum alanine aminotransferase (MD -2.34 U/L, 95% CI -34.73 to 30.06; 2 trials with 49 patients; I² = 95%), and plasma immunoglobulin M concentration (MD -20.23 mg/dl, 95% CI -218.71 to 178.25; 2 trials with 41 patients; I² = 90%) in random-effects model meta-analyses, but bezafibrate significantly decreased the activity of serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (MD -58.18, 95% CI -76.49 to -39.88; 2 trials with 49 patients; I² = 89%), serum alanine aminotransferase (MD -13.94, 95% CI -18.78 to -9.09; 2 trials with 49 patients; I² = 95%), and plasma immunoglobulin M concentration (MD -99.90, 95% CI -130.72 to -69.07; 2 trials with 41 patients; I² = 90%) in fixed-effect model meta-analyses. One patient had bezafibrate withdrawn due to an adverse event compared to no intervention (RD 0.03, 95% CI -0.09 to 0.16; 2 trials with 60 patients; I² = 0%).

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