Predicting a Bad End in Drug-Induced Liver Injury

A recent study (VL Re et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2015; 13: 2360-68) examined a retrospective cohort of 15,353 patients with presumed drug-induced liver injury (DILI) to formulate a more sensitive model for predicting liver failure.

The authors note that Hy’s Law has good specificity but poor sensitivity.  In their population, Hy’s Law had a specificity of 0.92, negative predictive value of 0.99, sensitivity of 0.68, and a positive predictive value of 0.02.

  • Hy’s law (named for Hyman Zimmerman): AST or ALT > 3 ULN and total bilirubin ≥2 ULN indicate serious hepatotoxicity with >10% mortality rate.

By incorporating data from platelet count and total bilirubin, the authors devised a Drug-Induced Liver Toxicity ALF Score which had a high sensitivity of 0.91 but a lower specificity of 0.76.

  • DrILTox ALF Score = -0.00691292*platelet count + 0.19091500*total bilirubin (per mg/dL)
  • Example: platelet count of 145 & total bilirubin of 3.0 yields a valued of -0.4296 which is above cut off of -1.081 indicating an increased risk of ALF.

Thus, low platelet counts and high bilirubins are strong predictors of acute liver failure (ALF) in the setting of DILI.

My take: Overall, the incidence of ALF due to drugs remains fairly low and determining that a specific drug induced liver injury remains problematic.  This study shows that ALF can occur in those who do not meet Hy’s Law criteria and that more sensitive predictors are needed.

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