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Primary biliary cholangitis is a chronic inflammatory, autoimmune cholestatic liver disease, which untreated will usually progress to end-stage biliary cirrhosis. The aims of treatment and management of primary biliary cholangitis are the amelioration of associated symptoms, particularly pruritis and fatigue, and the prevention of end-stage liver disease. The presentation, natural history and clinical course are variable. Recent published European and UK clinical guidelines have emphasized the need for risk stratification and an individualized approach to patient management in primary biliary cholangitis. The bile acid, ursodeoxycholic acid, is established as the first-line treatment of primary biliary cholangitis. Assessment of clinical response to treatment is based on specified improvements in serum liver tests including near normalization of the serum alkaline phosphatase level at 1 year. At least two thirds of patients with primary biliary cholangitis should respond to ursodeoxycholic acid after 1 year's treatment. The correct dosage of ursodeoxycholic acid is determined by body weight viz 13-15 mg/kg/day. A significant number of patients with primary biliary cholangitis in the UK are being underdosed. Over a third of ursodeoxycholic acid partial responders become responders within 2 years after increasing the ursodeoxycholic acid doses to recommended levels. While transplant rates for primary biliary cholangitis have halved over the last 20 years, it is clear that optimizing the dose of ursodeoxycholic acid in partial responders would further decrease morbidity, mortality and the need for liver transplantation.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Hosp Med (Lond)

Publication Date





460 - 464