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Rifaximin Maintains Remission in Patients With Liver Disease

Also reduces risk of hospitalization due to hepatic encephalopathy resulting from chronic liver disease

WEDNESDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with rifaximin maintains remission and reduces the risk of hospitalization in patients with hepatic encephalopathy, a neuropsychiatric complication of hepatic cirrhosis, better than placebo, according to a study in the March 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Nathan M. Bass, Ph.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues randomly assigned 299 patients in remission from recurrent hepatic encephalopathy due to chronic liver disease to placebo or 550 mg rifaximin twice a day.

Over a six-month period, the researchers found that the rifaximin group had a significantly lower risk of a breakthrough episode of hepatic encephalopathy (22.1 versus 45.9 percent; hazard ratio, 0.42) and a significantly lower risk of hospitalization involving hepatic encephalopathy (13.6 versus 22.6 percent; hazard ratio, 0.50). The incidence of adverse and serious adverse events was similar in the rifaximin and placebo groups. More than 90 percent of patients also received lactulose treatment.

"Over a six-month period, treatment with rifaximin maintained remission from hepatic encephalopathy more effectively than did placebo," Bass and colleagues conclude. "Rifaximin treatment also significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization involving hepatic encephalopathy."

The study was supported by Salix Pharmaceuticals. Five authors are employees of Salix, and several other authors reported financial relationships with Salix and other companies.

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