Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 55, Issue 11, pp 3207–3217 | Cite as

Methotrexate in Patients with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Who Respond Incompletely to Treatment With Ursodeoxycholic Acid

  • Marshall M. KaplanEmail author
  • Alan Bonder
  • Robin Ruthazer
  • Peter A. L. Bonis
Original Article



Approximately 35% of PBC patients have progressive disease despite treatment with UDCA.


We offered treatment with methotrexate and colchicine to PBC patients who had not responded fully to UDCA, after at least 1 year of treatment.


A total of 91 PBC patients failed to respond adequately to UDCA, defined as patients whose liver biopsies showed persistent interface hepatitis and whose serum alkaline phosphatase levels remained more than 50% above normal after at least 12 months on UDCA. We added colchicine (0.6 mg orally twice daily) for 6 months. If there was no decrease in alkaline phosphatase, methotrexate (0.25 mg/kg lean body weight orally per week) was added. Liver biopsies were performed at least three times: at diagnosis, after a patient had been on UDCA for at least 1 year (mean 3.4 years), and after a patient had been on methotrexate for at least 6 months (mean 2.2 years). A fourth liver biopsy was performed in 51 patients after they had been on methotrexate for at least another year (mean 3.5 years).


From the time that methotrexate was begun until the final visit, there were significant decreases in the mean levels of alkaline phosphatase, 323 to 151, ALT, 73 to 39, fibrosis, 2.5 to 2.0, and inflammation scores, 2.0 to 1.0, (p < 0.0001 for all). Based on pre-specified definitions, 73 patients (80%) responded to methotrexate while 18 (20%) did not.


In 91 PBC patients who responded incompletely to UDCA, colchicine and methotrexate significantly improved liver enzyme tests and liver histology.


Primary biliary cirrhosis Unresponsive to ursodiol Response to methotrexate Colchicine 


Conflict of interest statement



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marshall M. Kaplan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan Bonder
    • 1
  • Robin Ruthazer
    • 2
  • Peter A. L. Bonis
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of GastroenterologyTufts Medical CenterBostonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy StudiesTufts Medical CenterBostonUSA

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