Using controlled clinical trials to learn more about acute drug-induced liver injury


  • Potential conflict of interest: Although Dr. Pears is an employee of AstraZeneca, and Dr. Watkins is an academic consultant to several companies, the use of no particular drug was advocated or discouraged at this open, public meeting on general issues relating to drug-induced liver injury. Drs. Seligman, Avigan, and Senior are employees of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and report no conflicts of interest.


Drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is of major interest to hepatologists and clinicians in general, patients, government regulators, and the pharmaceutical industry. Understanding why this form of injury occurs only in certain individuals has major implications for the development and availability of drug therapies and in the prevention of these events. A single controlled clinical trial may be unlikely to show cases of such rare events, but in the aggregate, clinical trials offer a unique resource for learning more about individual susceptibility and developing truly predictive new biomarkers for DILI. We pose the question as to whether clinical trials could be modified or improved to provide data that would better answer some of the outstanding issues. At a recent (March 2008) public meeting, experts from academia, industry, and regulatory bodies discussed several major issues regarding liver safety in clinical trials including: what signals of liver injury should justify stopping administration of study drug or allowing it to continue; if deliberate rechallenge should be done and under what circumstances; whether patients with liver disease should be included in clinical trials; and what kinds of new biomarkers will be needed to answer these questions more clearly. Past clinical trials have not provided data to settle those issues, and reliance has defaulted to consensus of expert opinions. Modified and better clinical trials with standardized collection of data and biospecimens are probably the best source of new and potentially valuable information to supplant current rules based on consensus of expert opinions and to understand by what mechanisms and how to distinguish those individuals who are susceptible to severe DILI. (HEPATOLOGY 2008.)