Is It a Mistake to Use Budesonide for Autoimmune Hepatitis?

A Diaz-Gonzalez et al. Hepatology 2023; 77: 1095-1105. Open Access! Budesonide as first-line treatment in patients with autoimmune hepatitis seems inferior to standard predniso(lo)ne administration

Background: AASLD guidelines also suggest the use of budesonide with azathioprine as an alternative agent (to prednisone with azathioprine) in patients without cirrhosis or a severe acute presentation.1–3 However, particularly in pediatrics, there is concern that it is not as effective.

Methods: This was a retrospective, multicenter study of 105 naive AIH patients treated with budesonide as the first-line drug. The control group included 276 patients treated with prednisone.

Key findings:

  • The biochemical response (BR) rate was significantly higher in patients treated with prednisone (87% vs. 49% of patients with budesonide, p < 0.001). BR was defined as normalization of both serum transaminases and IgG.
  • The probability of achieving BR was significantly lower in the budesonide group (OR = 0.20) at any time during follow-up, and at 6 (OR = 0.51) and 12 months after starting treatment (0.41)
  • Prednisone treatment was significantly associated with a higher risk of adverse events (24.2% vs. 15.9%). These differences vanished when patients with cirrhosis were excluded from the analysis, showing a similar incidence of AEs in both groups (p = 0.119). Of the specific adverse effects, only the presence of osteoporosis was significantly higher in the prednisone group (mainly in those older than 60 years)
  • The authors note that budesonide was “only indicated in 5.4% of patients newly diagnosed with AIH… Budesonide was mainly employed in patients with low baseline transaminases, suggesting that this drug is preferred in patients with less severe disease.”

My take: “The use of budesonide in the real-life setting was low and was associated with a lower probability of achieving BR with respect to prednisone.” It likely needs to be restricted to those with mild disease, and those with adverse events with prednisone. Cost is less of an issue as budesonide can be obtained as a generic (Mark Cuban Costplus pharmacy: Budesonide).

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1 thought on “Is It a Mistake to Use Budesonide for Autoimmune Hepatitis?

  1. Important to note that <18 yo currently cannot receive prescriptions through cost Plus.

    From their website:
    "Can I get prescriptions for my child from Cost Plus Drugs?
    You must be 18 years of age or older to create an account and order prescriptions from Cost Plus Drugs. We can only fill prescriptions for people 18 years of age or older."

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