Second-line Agents in Pediatric Patients With Autoimmune Hepatitis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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Background and Aims:

Ten percent to 20% of children with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) require second-line therapy to achieve remission. Although current guidelines exist on first-line management, evidence for second-line therapy in treatment-refractory patients is lacking. Our aim was to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy and safety of second-line treatments used in this population.


Electronic and manual searches were used to identify potential studies for inclusion. Studies were selected based on reported response rates to second-line therapies in children who failed response to prednisone and azathioprine. Data extraction and risk of bias assessment were performed independently by 2 reviewers. Meta-analysis using weighted estimate of response rates at 6 months was performed for each treatment option. Heterogeneity was assessed.


Fifteen studies of 76 pediatric patients with AIH were included in the review. Overall response rates at 6 months were estimated as 36% for mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) (N = 34, 95% confidence interval [CI] (16–57)), and 50% for tacrolimus (N = 4, 95% CI (0–100%)) and 83% for cyclosporine (N = 15, 95% CI (66%–100%)). Adverse effects were most frequent with cyclosporine (64% experiencing at least 1 adverse effect) followed by tacrolimus (54%) and MMF (48%). Pooled estimates of adverse events were 78% for cyclosporine (95% CI (54%–100%)), 42% for tacrolimus (95% CI (0%–85%)) and 45% for MMF (95% CI (25%–68%)). Sensitivity analyses were not performed due to small sample size.


Cyclosporine had the highest response rate at 6 months in children with standard-treatment-refractory AIH; however, it also had the highest rate of adverse events. MMF was the second most efficacious option with a low adverse effect rate.

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