Therapeutic Strategies for the Treatment of Alcoholic Hepatitis

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Acute alcoholic hepatitis is a unique clinical syndrome among patients with chronic and active heavy alcohol use. Presenting with acute or chronic liver failure, a severe episode has a potential for 30 to 40% mortality at 1 month from presentation, if not recognized and left untreated. Alcoholic hepatitis patients need supportive therapy for abstinence and nutritional supplementation for those patients with markedly reduced caloric intake. Results of the recently published STOPAH (Steroids or Pentoxifylline for Alcoholic Hepatitis) Study showed only a benefit of corticosteroids on short-term mortality without any benefit of pentoxifylline. Neither of these two drugs impacts medium- and long-term mortality, which is mainly driven by abstinence from alcohol. With the emerging data on the benefits of liver transplantation, liver transplantation could be an important salvage option for a very highly select group of AH patients. More data are needed on the use of liver transplantation in AH as the basis for deriving protocols for selecting cases and for posttransplant management. Currently, many clinical trials are examining the efficacy and safety of new or repurposed compounds in severe AH. These drugs are targeted at various pathways in the pathogenesis of AH: the gut-liver axis, the inflammatory cascade, and liver injury. With increasing interest of researchers and clinicians, supported by funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the future seems promising for the development of effective and safe pharmacological interventions for severe AH.

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