Silymarin Is Ineffective for Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection

Atif Zaman, MD, MPH

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In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

In the most rigorous trial to date, oral silymarin was not superior to placebo in decreasing disease activity.

Introduction

Silymarin is a botanical extract of milk thistle commonly used by patients with liver disease. In vitro studies have demonstrated antiviral, anti-inflammatory properties of silymarin in hepatitis C virus (HCV) replicon systems. However, the few efficacy studies conducted in patients with chronic HCV infection have produced mixed results.

In a new multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled efficacy trial, investigators randomized 154 patients (median age, 54; 71% men) with chronic HCV infection who previously failed interferon-based therapy to receive 420 mg of silymarin, 700 mg of silymarin, or placebo three times daily for 24 weeks. The two oral doses of pure silymarin were determined by earlier dose finding studies and were three to five times higher than concentrations used in previous studies. The primary endpoint was a serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level of ≤45 U/L or a 50% reduction from baseline ALT to a level <65 U/L. Secondary endpoints included HCV RNA levels and quality-of-life indicators.

After 24 weeks of treatment, only two patients in each group achieved the primary endpoint. The mean decline in ALT levels at the end of treatment, the mean change in HCV RNA levels, and the quality-of-life indicators did not differ among the three groups.

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