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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Jan;17(1):137-43.

Oral antioxidant supplementation for fatigue associated with primary biliary cirrhosis: results of a multicentre, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial.

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  • 1Centre for Liver Research, Newcastle University Medical School, Framlington Place, Newcastle, Tyne & Wear, NE2 4LL, UK. martin.prince@ncl.ac.uk



We have previously reported, in an uncontrolled trial, an improvement in fatigue scores in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis given oral antioxidant supplementation. We now present data from a controlled trial.


Sixty-one patients with primary biliary cirrhosis-associated fatigue were randomized into a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Participants received 12 weeks each of placebo and antioxidant supplementation (vitamins A, C and E, selenium, methionine and ubiquinone) in random order, separated by a 4-week washout period. The primary trial outcome (fatigue) was assessed using the Fisk scale. Other symptoms of primary biliary cirrhosis were measured using Likert and visual analogue scales.


Forty-four patients completed both arms of the trial. No significant changes in fatigue were recorded in the active phase of treatment (median improvement in Fisk score, 1; P = 0.61). Small improvements in Fisk scores were recorded during placebo therapy (median improvement, 4; P = 0.03). Neither medication was associated with improvement in any other symptoms related to primary biliary cirrhosis. Adverse effects were more common during active therapy and were mild and self-limiting. One patient died from unrelated causes during active treatment.


Although oral antioxidant supplementation appears to be safe, we could not find any evidence for a beneficial effect on fatigue or other liver-related symptoms.

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