An open-label randomised-controlled trial of azathioprine vs. mycophenolate mofetil for the induction of remission in treatment-naive autoimmune hepatitis
Dutch Autoimmune Hepatitis Working Group
Background & Aims Patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) almost inevitably require lifelong immunosuppressive treatment. There is genuine concern about the efficacy and tolerability of the current standard combination therapy of prednisolone and azathioprine. Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) has emerged as an alternative option. The aim of this study was to compare MMF to azathioprine as induction therapy. Methods In this 24-week, prospective, randomised, open-label, multicentre superiority trial, 70 patients with treatment-naive AIH received either MMF or azathioprine, both in combination with prednisolone. The primary endpoint was biochemical remission defined as normalisation of serum levels of alanine aminotransferase and immunoglobulin G after 24 weeks of treatment. Secondary endpoints included safety and tolerability. Results Seventy patients (mean 57.9 years (standard deviation (SD) 14.0); 72.9% female) were randomly assigned to the MMF plus prednisolone (n=39) or azathioprine plus prednisolone (n=31) group. The primary endpoint was met in 56.4% and 29.0% of patients assigned to the MMF group and the azathioprine group, respectively (difference, 27.4 percentage points; 95% confidence interval (CI), 4.0 to 46.7; p=0.022). The MMF group exhibited higher complete biochemical response rates at 6 months (72.2% vs. 32.3%; p=0.004). No serious adverse events occurred in patients who received MMF (0%) but serious adverse events were reported in four patients who received azathioprine (12.9%) (p=0.034). Two patients in the MMF group (5.1%) and eight patients in the azathioprine group (25.8%) discontinued treatment owing to adverse events or serious adverse events (p=0.018). Conclusions In patients with treatment-naive AIH, MMF with prednisolone achieved a significantly higher rate of biochemical remission at 24 weeks compared to azathioprine combined with prednisolone. Azathioprine use was associated with more (serious) adverse events leading to cessation of treatment, suggesting superior tolerability of MMF. Impact and implications This randomised controlled trial directly compares azathioprine and mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), both in combination with prednisolone, for the induction of biochemical remission in treatment-naive patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). Achieving complete remission is desirable to prevent disease progression. Patients assigned to the MMF group reached biochemical remission more often and experienced fewer adverse events. The findings in this trial may contribute to the re-evaluation of international guidelines for the standard of care in treatment-naive patients with AIH.
Source (journal)
Journal of hepatology. - Amsterdam
Amsterdam : 2024
80 :4 (2024) , p. 576-585
Pubmed ID
Full text (Publisher's DOI)
Full text (open access)
Research group
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Creation 18.12.2023
Last edited 10.04.2024
To cite this reference