Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 1766–1775

Presentation and Outcomes with Clinically Apparent Interferon Beta Hepatotoxicity

  • Robert J. Fontana
  • Paul Hayashi
  • Herbert L. Bonkovsky
  • David E. Kleiner
  • Sweta Kochhar
  • Jiezhun Gu
  • Marwan Ghabril
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10620-012-2553-1

Cite this article as:
Fontana, R.J., Hayashi, P., Bonkovsky, H.L. et al. Dig Dis Sci (2013) 58: 1766. doi:10.1007/s10620-012-2553-1



The aim of this study was to describe the presenting features and outcomes of consecutive patients with liver injury attributed to interferon beta.


The presenting features of eight subjects with clinically apparent liver injury attributed to interferon beta enrolled in the U.S. Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN) prospective registry between 2004 and 2010 were reviewed and compared to 11 published reports of symptomatic hepatotoxicity.


All eight of the DILIN patients were women, 75 % were Caucasian and the mean age was 49 years. Most subjects presented with an acute hepatocellular injury pattern and mean serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were 725 ± 593 U/L. The median duration of interferon beta use before injury onset was 462 days, and four patients had been treated for more than a year. No patient had detectable antinuclear or smooth muscle antibodies. One patient died of acute liver failure and the remaining patients usually recovered within 2–3 months. Causality assessment scored three cases as definite, three highly likely, one probable and one possible. Eleven additional published cases were all women, mean age was 40 years, mean ALT at onset 840 U/L, and 7 (63 %) had autoantibodies. Liver histology in three cases from DILIN and nine from the literature commented upon centrilobular (zone 3) necrosis and infiltrates with lymphocytes and plasma cells.


Interferon beta hepatotoxicity occurs mostly in women and has a variable, but often prolonged time to onset. Most patients have self-limited acute hepatocellular liver injury but several have required liver transplantation or died of acute liver failure. Liver histology available in three cases demonstrated zone 3 necrosis and autoimmune features suggestive of an immunologic basis to this adverse drug reaction.


Multiple sclerosisBiologic response modifiersDrug-induced liver injuryAcute liver failureLiver biopsy



Alanine aminotransferase


Aspartate aminotransferase

Alk P

Alkaline phosphatase


Drug-induced liver injury


Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network




Multiple sclerosis


Upper limit of the normal range

Supplementary material

10620_2012_2553_MOESM1_ESM.doc (36 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 35 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Fontana
    • 1
  • Paul Hayashi
    • 2
  • Herbert L. Bonkovsky
    • 2
    • 3
  • David E. Kleiner
    • 4
  • Sweta Kochhar
    • 1
  • Jiezhun Gu
    • 5
  • Marwan Ghabril
    • 6
  1. 1.Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of Michigan Medical School, University of Michigan Medical CenterAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Departments of Medicine and ResearchCarolinas Medical CenterCharlotteUSA
  4. 4.National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  5. 5.Duke Clinical Research InstituteDurhamUSA
  6. 6.Department of Internal MedicineIndiana UniversityIndianapolisUSA