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J Appl Toxicol. 2008 Mar;28(2):93-103.

Beneficial drugs for liver diseases.

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Departamento de Farmacología, Cinvestav-IPN, Apdo. Postal 14-740. México 07000, D.F. México.


Liver diseases are a major problem of worldwide proportions. However, the number of drugs actually used successfully in humans is very small. In this review some of the most promising/studied drugs utilized for liver diseases were chosen and analysed critically from the basic to the clinical point of view. Antiviral agents are not discussed because excellent reviews have appeared on this topic. The compounds/preparations described herein are, alphabetically: colchicine, corticosteroids, curcumin, glycyrrhizin, interferons (for their antifibrotic properties), Liv 52, nitric oxide, resveratrol, silymarin, sulfoadenosylmethionine, and thalidomide. Colchicine and corticosteroids have been studied extensively in animals and humans; most clinical studies suggest that these compounds are not useful in the treatment of liver diseases. Glycyrrhizin is an herbal medicine with several components that has interesting hepatoprotective properties in patients with subacute liver failure but deserves more prospective controlled trials. Interferon has shown interesting antifibrotic properties in animals and humans; prospective studies on their antifibrotic/fibrolytic activity are required. Curcumin, resveratrol and thalidomide are very attractive newly discovered protective and curative compounds on experimental hepatic diseases. Their mechanism of action is associated with the ability to down-regulate NF-kappaB and to decrease pronecrotic and profibrotic cytokines. Unfortunately, clinical studies are lacking. Sulfoadenosylmethionine and silymarin are also promising drugs utilized mainly in cholestasis but the benefits can be expanded if more controlled trials are performed. The future is to carry out controlled prospective double-blind multicenter studies with the newly discovered drugs with proven beneficial effects on animals. Fundamental hepatobiology should also be encouraged.

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