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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003 Nov 15;18(10):963-72.

Systematic review: ursodeoxycholic acid--adverse effects and drug interactions.

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Department of Medicine II, Klinikum Grosshadern, University of Munich, Munich, Germany.



Ursodeoxycholic acid is increasingly being used for the treatment of chronic cholestatic liver diseases. It appears to be generally well tolerated, but a systematic review on drug safety is lacking.


As experimental data suggest a role of bile acids in the regulation of hepatic drug metabolism at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level, the literature was screened for adverse drug reactions and drug interactions related to ursodeoxycholic acid.


A systematic review of the literature was performed using a refined search strategy to evaluate the adverse effects of ursodeoxycholic acid and its interactions with other drugs.


Ursodeoxycholic acid caused diarrhoea in a small proportion of patients. Rare skin reactions were due to drug adjuvants rather than the active substance. Decompensation of liver cirrhosis was reported after the administration of ursodeoxycholic acid in single cases of end-stage primary biliary cirrhosis. Recurrent right upper quadrant abdominal pain was incidentally observed. The absorption of ursodeoxycholic acid was impaired by colestyramine, colestimide, colestipol, aluminium hydroxide and smectite. Metabolic drug interactions were reported for the cytochrome P4503A substrates, ciclosporin, nitrendipine and dapsone.


Ursodeoxycholic acid is generally well tolerated. Drug absorption interactions with anion exchange resins deserve consideration. Metabolic interactions with compounds metabolized by cytochrome P4503A are to be expected.

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